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Timonen hopes to play in Game 5

by Mike G. Morreale

Kimmo Timonen, who eight days ago was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left ankle and told he would be out for the remainder of this series, skated for 35 minutes Friday morning at the Flyers' practice facility.  Timonen highlights
VOORHEES, N.J. -- Two days ago, it appeared the Philadelphia Flyers were on the brink of collapse. A playoff run that looked so promising was about to be swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Amazing what a victory and some good postgame injury news can do for the psyche.

It was only after the Flyers had pierced what been a nearly impenetrable defense on the way to a 4-2 victory over the Penguins on Thursday night that All-Star defenseman Kimmo Timonen discussed a possible return for Game 5 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

"When I walked into (the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania) on Thursday, I wasn't expecting this,” Timonen said. "When I got the news that I could attempt to skate, it was unbelievable. I was just hoping the guys would be able to win (Thursday) so I'd get a chance to play on Sunday.

"It's my dream to be able to play in this kind of situation -- and now I'm back in it, so it feels pretty good."

Timonen, who eight days ago was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left ankle and told he would be out for the remainder of this series, skated for 35 minutes Friday morning at the Flyers' practice facility. Not only would having Timonen back in the lineup give the Flyers a mobile presence against the Penguins, it would provide a bona fide quarterback for their power play.

"It'll probably come down to the pain medicine and how much pain I can take" Timonen said. "I feel confident that I'm ready to go Sunday, but I won't know for sure until I practice with the team and really get out there with the boys and do some really good drills and that kind of stuff. So we're going to see (Saturday) after practice for sure."

In 12 playoff games prior to the injury, Timonen led the Flyers in total ice time per game (24:55), shorthanded ice time (3:32) and power-play ice time (4:47). He had six assists and was plus-5 despite drawing the primary defensive assignment against Washington's Alex Ovechkin in the opening round and Montreal's Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev in the conference semifinals.

"The blood clot is still there," Timonen admitted. "It hasn't moved, but the biggest thing is it hasn't gotten any bigger, and that's why I am on blood thinners. They want to prevent that clot getting bigger, and it hasn't gotten any bigger. It's been 2½ weeks since I got hit by the puck (in Game 5 against Montreal on May 3), so they don't think (the blood clot) is going to break loose anywhere. Those two things (the size and the breaking of the clot) were the big issues, and that's why they were able to give me a green light to go."

The prognosis wasn't as clear in regard to Timonen's regular defense partner, Braydon Coburn, who's been sidelined since the opening minutes of Game 2 against Pittsburgh after being struck in the face with a deflected puck. The puck caused a gash that needed more than 50 stitches to close and left Coburn with a left eye that was completely swollen shut.

While the swelling has gone down some, Coburn remains doubtful for Game 5.

"Braydon just doesn't feel right at this time and he wants to do the right thing for himself and his team," GM Paul Holmgren said. "We'll revisit the situation (Saturday) morning prior to our flight to Pittsburgh."

Hit parade -- For the third time in the series, the Flyers held an advantage in hits, 23-18. Leading the way were defensemen Derian Hatcher and Jason Smith, with four apiece, and forwards Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere, with three each.

"We've wanted to play physical, but I don't think it's us creating all the scrums after the whistle, either," Flyers center Mike Richards said. "We know when we go into scrums that we're not going to get the power play coming out of there, so we want to stay away from those as much as possible. But being physical is a huge part of our game."

Igniting the lines -- Richards felt the tweaks in the lineup prior to Game 4 played a significant role to sparking the offense.

Richards, who had been the pivot for R.J. Umberger and Joffrey Lupul in the opening two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, was flanked by Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell on Thursday. The trio combined for a goal and three assists in the 4-2 victory. The Umberger line, with Vaclav Prospal and Lupul, combined for two goals and one assist.

"I think we have four solid lines that can compete against really anybody on Pittsburgh," Richards said. "I'm sure that they feel the same way. With Danny playing on the wing, I know it helps out big time on the face-off circles with him going on his forehand and me on my forehand or my backhand. So when you have the puck, it's obviously a lot better than trying to chase it."

Giroux named QMJHL MVP -- Claude Giroux, the Flyers' first-round draft pick (22nd overall) in 2006, won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the 2008 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.

The 20-year-old native of Hearst, Ontario, set a team record with 51 points (17 goals) in 19 playoff games for the Gatineau Olympiques, who captured the President Cup as QMJHL champions. He also had six points, including two goals, in seven games as a member of the gold-medal winning Canadian National Team at the 2008 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic.

Giroux played in two games with the Flyers this season after being an emergency recall from Gatineau on Feb. 22.

"Claude has had an outstanding season," GM Paul Holmgren said. "With the World Junior gold medal for Canada and now his run with Gatineau to the Memorial Cup, it has been great to see his development."

The Olympiques will open the Memorial Cup tournament against the host Kitchener Rangers on Friday night. Gatineau lost in the championship game to the Rangers in 2003 and again the following year to the Kelowna Rockets.


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