VOORHEES, N.J. (AP) -Philadelphia Flyers right wing Joffrey Lupul, sidelined since Jan. 5 with a spinal cord contusion, has been cleared to play against the New York Rangers on Saturday, five days earlier than expected.
Lupul suffered the injury in a collision with teammate Derian Hatcher at Toronto.
The 24-year-old passed an MRI exam last week, but he was told on Monday to wait until Feb. 14 for precautionary reasons. Lupul pressed the issue and finally was given the OK to resume play from Dr. William Welch, neurosurgeon at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.
"Joffrey's been champing at the bit," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "The doctors were cautious, but we asked, 'What's the difference between now and three or four days from now?"'
Lupul, who has 16 goals and 35 points in 39 games, is expected to play on a line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne.
Lupul said after Friday's practice that he was surprised.
"Everyone knew I wanted to play, felt well enough to play. If you're well enough to play, you should be playing," Lupul said. "I guess the doctor had a change of heart."
Coach John Stevens said he was glad to hear the news, especially because Lupul can fill in for the recently injured Scottie Upshall, who is out with a sprained ankle.
"He's a guy who plays in all situations," Stevens said.