Flyers Notes | Tolpeko adds zip as fill-in for Umberger
Flyers Notes CALGARY, Alberta - While R.J. Umberger's surgically repaired left pinkie heals, 22-year-old Denis Tolpeko is occupying his spot in the Flyers' lineup.
CALGARY, Alberta - While
surgically repaired left pinkie heals, 22-year-old
is occupying his spot in the Flyers' lineup.
Tolpeko, a center, started at left wing last night on Mike Richards' checking line with Joffrey Lupul in the opener against the Calgary Flames.
"He's got a lot of speed," Richards said of Tolpeko. "You underestimate how fast he is out there. He has strong legs. He takes the puck well to the net. That is the biggest thing I noticed about him."
Born in Moscow, the 6-foot, 175-pound forward played his junior career with Seattle in the Western Hockey League.
"It was my dream to play in the National Hockey League," Tolpeko said. "It was more easy to do it this way [in the WHL]. It's too hard to do it from Russia."
General manager Paul Holmgren said Tolpeko, signed as a free agent in July 2006, is intriguing because of his speed.
"We're all happy and want to see how he does," Holmgren said. "He's played a few preseason games. He's got very good speed, good hands. If you saw the Phantoms last year, Denis has the ability to wow you. His consistency was an issue last year."
Coach John Stevens said that since Richards is so good at distributing the puck, he now has a skilled forward with good hands on one side in Lupul (playing with a sprained left wrist) and a speed rusher in Tolpeko on the other side.
"He's got that good, straightaway speed and strength on the puck," Stevens said.
No one is certain how long Tolpeko will last with the team. Umberger is expected to play by Wednesday, when the Flyers visit Vancouver.
"I was expecting [to make the team], but you never know," Tolpeko said. "I worked hard this summer. I did lots of running to get into shape. It has helped me with my speed. I have more wind in my lungs now."
began skating with the Swedish club Modo this week. He has told reporters in Sweden that his return to the NHL may be pushed back to the Feb. 26 trade deadline. The Flyers, among other clubs, were thinking the free agent would be back by December. . . . Comcast SportsNet will replay its coverage of the Flyers' games in western Canada tonight (Calgary), Sunday (Edmonton) and Thursday (Vancouver). The taped games will be shown at 7:30. . . . Winger
was a scratch last night as he began serving his 20-game suspension.
- Tim Panaccio