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Flyers' Timonen says return this season is 'slim'

by Adam Kimelman

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen will attempt to play during the 2014-15 NHL season but admitted Thursday the chances of that happening are slim due to blood clots that were found in his lower right leg and in both lungs in early August.

"My desire is always I want to play but chance of me playing is really slim," Timonen said during a press conference at the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, N.J. "That's the fact. But I'm ready to wait for that chance and see how I feel."

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Timonen will be out for "a period of time here, meaning months." Hextall said Timonen will continue to be monitored by team doctors and will have a follow-up exam in January.

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"Whether Kimmo will play or not, we don't know at this point," Hextall said. "It will be more of a wait and see, wait and see how his clots have cleared up and move along the process from there. First and foremost as an organization we're concerned about Kimmo and his health and his family. And then secondly comes the hockey part. We would never [put him in danger. On the other hand, if we feel at that point that he is capable of playing, we will certainly welcome him back later in the year assuming things go as we hope."

Timonen said he felt pain in his right calf during the first week of August. When the calf swelled, he visited a doctor, and the clots were discovered during an ultrasound test. Timonen was hospitalized and testing revealed clots in his lungs.

He said he has a blood condition called Protein C deficiency that makes him susceptible to blood clots; his mother and his two brothers also have the condition. Timonen missed time due to blood clots once previously. During the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Flyers he was hit in the ankle by a shot during a second-round game against the Montreal Canadiens and missed two weeks. He returned for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Flyers lost the game and the series.

"I've had it all my life," Timonen said. "The previous clots, there's usually some kind of trauma there. You get hit by the puck, slashing, whatever and there's been bleeding and I might get some kind of clot but these are always ... once it goes into your lungs it’s a whole different story than having a superficial clot."

To treat the clots he is on blood thinners, which precludes him from playing contact sports. However, he said he can work out in the gym as hard as he wants for as long as he wants.

"I feel very good," Timonen said. "I’m on blood thinners right now, but it's really good. Obviously it's tough to take because I’m able to practice, I'm able to run. But I've got to avoid everything contact. So obviously hockey, if I can go out there and nobody's hitting me I can play. But I don't think that's going to be a possibility."

The 39-year-old signed a one-year contract in June and said he had a good summer working out for what he intended to be his final NHL season. With one trip to the Stanley Cup Final in his first 15 seasons, Timonen said he was looking forward to one final chance to win hockey's greatest trophy.

The fact this will be his final season no matter what happens is why Timonen refuses to rule out the chance of playing in 2014-15.

"I'm going to wait," he said. "If there's a little chance that there's a safe way for me to step on the ice then we'll have a new discussion. But so far we don't know."

What the Flyers know is they have to move on without arguably their best defenseman. Last season he was second among Flyers defenders with six goals, 35 points and a plus-5 rating averaging 20:19 of ice time per game. He played the point on the top power-play unit, was used often to kill penalties, and was as an alternate captain and respected veteran leader.

"You can't replace Kimmo," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "It's not about replacing Kimmo. We have other guys that are good players and that are in that position to succeed and take over. He's where he's at right now and we have other guys that are going to play and fill that position. Hopefully Timonen gets back to where he can get on the ice and play."

The pressure falls on the Flyers' returning veteran defensemen -- Braydon Coburn, Mark Streit, Nicklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn and Andrew MacDonald -- to pick up the slack. The Flyers also signed veterans Nick Schultz and Michael Del Zotto during the offseason, and three of the organization's top prospects are defensemen: Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg. Hagg is No. 55 on the NHL.com Top 60 prospect ranking, Gostisbehere No. 58.

With the first training camp practice set for Friday, the Flyers have no choice but to look to the future, regardless of whether Timonen is part of it.

"We need to move forward," Hextall said. "The biggest thing we'll miss is [Timonen's] professionalism. He's a pro. He shows up every game. Every practice he's ready to go and works hard. And we're going to miss that. Hopefully later in the season we'll get him back."

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