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Flyers expect Holmstrom to fill void

DENVER -- Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier are not only top-flight centers in the NHL.

With the Flyers, they play a much bigger role than scoring, providing support for defensemen in the defensive zone, or even taking face-offs. Peter Laviolette relies on Couturier and Giroux, who will both sit out tonight's game at the Pepsi Center with head injuries and no clear timetable for return, in all situations - like the penalty kill and in the last minute of periods and games.

That's likely where Ben Holmstrom will fit in tonight. Holmstrom, 24, who was re-called from the Phantoms on Sunday, did not make it to Denver on Sunday in time for practice. After all, there isn't exactly an easy way to get from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Colorado in a snap.

But the Colorado Springs, Colo., native will likely play his 4th career NHL game in front of family and friends on Monday night. His hometown is about an hour south of where the Avalanche call home.

"He's a natural centermen," Laviolette said. "I think the role in which he plays, as far as the penalty killing, faceoffs, and defense he plays, to be able to get him up here is important.

"We're getting thin in different areas, so we just want to make sure that we're covered positionally with everything that we need for the game."

Even with Holmstrom in the lineup - and Danny Briere centering the top line with Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr - the Flyers will still need one of Harry Zolnierczyk or Matt Read to center one line. Max Talbot is the other center.

"We're hit hard right now with the injuries," Laviolette said. "Through the times when you have injuries like this, you need to use some guys and have them be versatile. It's not about whether they're extremely comfortable in that position, it's about the good of the team.

"Harry has done a great job in there. Matt's been playing wing for an extended period of time but he can jump back in there at any time. It's just something that has to be done."

Holmstrom played 1 game this season and won 50 percent of his face-offs in Buffalo on Nov. 2. He also played in 2 games last season. He is not afraid to fight, either, as he picked up 1 fighting major against Chris Neil on April 5, 2011. Offensively, Holmstrom is 3rd in team scoring on the Phantoms with 8 goals and 8 assists in 25 games.

Holmstrom was not available for comment via phone on Sunday in Denver, but Laviolette said he will put him in a position to succeed. He fills the perfect void.

"If you're going to bring somebody up, you need to put them in a positions of strength and see what they can do," Laviolette said. "With that, it gives them opportunity, and it's up to them to see what they can do."

SESTITO HANGING: Back in training camp, it appeared that big Tom Sestito - who checks in at 6-foot-5 and 228 pounds - might have a shot to make the big club. Sestito, 24, was impressive in his limited time, and could have probably filled a role with Jody Shelley suspended for the first 5 games of the regular season.

That was, until, Sestito was caught up in the same disciplinary issues, when he was booked for 2 regular season games and 3 preseason games for a hit on the Rangers' Andre Deveaux.

Had he not been suspended, Sestito very well could have played the 27 games that Zac Rinaldo has seen this season so far.

Last week, with the Flyers having plenty of roster and salary cap room because of injuries, Sestito was re-called from Adirondack to serve those 2 games. Many were expecting Sestito would be sent back to the Phantoms once the two games were served. But he is still here.

"It's always good to get that out of the way and start playing again. It's been a long time," Sestito said after practice on Sunday in Denver.. "It's nice to have that not be on my mind anymore."

Sestito has not yet played a regular season game - and he probably remains a long-shot with Jody Shelley and Ben Holmstrom in the lineup - but the fact that he has not been sent down yet is to his credit.

"There's a lot of injuries up here right now," Sestito said. "I'm just going day by day. If I'm playing, I've just got to play my game. If I'm not, I've got to keep practicing hard and hopefully I'll get in there."

WHAT'S IN A NICKNAME? Peter Laviolette referred to defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon in practice on Sunday as "Bizz." So, what exactly does that mean?

"It's simple," said Bourdon, a St-Hyacinte, Quebec, native. "In French, my last name means bumble bee. So, that's what everyone calls a lot of people in my family."

Bourdon has now played 12 games for the Flyers since making his rookie debut on Nov. 21. He has proven himself as physical and capable, NHL-caliber puck moving defenseman with a lot of room to grow. And the nickname is proof that he's been appropriately welcomed to the fold.

"We had a bad day, everyone had a bad day. It started bad, it ended bad. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It was a tough day for us. The only thing you can do is try and take some of that venom that's left and bring it into the next game."
-Flyers coach Peter Laviolette after practice yesterday in Denver talking about Saturday's 6-0 loss to the Boston at the Wells Fargo Center. It was the Flyers' first loss in the month of December.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers