Ryan Potulny figured that making the Flyers' roster would be difficult enough this season even if he was healthy.

So considering that he missed most of training camp trying to recover from bursa-sac surgery on his right ankle and then went in and out of the lineup because the wound wouldn't heal, this has been a frustrating start to his second full season.

"It was tough for a while," Potulny said. "Especially, because I wanted to be playing."

Potulny's problem was every time he got back into the lineup with the Phantoms, his skate forced open the cut and he had to sit waiting for it to close.

It happened twice before the Flyers sent him to Montreal to have a skate boot specially fitted to his foot that takes the pressure away from the wound.

"They feel awesome," he said. "They modified them so the pressure would be on the cut, they took a mold of my foot and eliminated the problem."

That meant the 23-year-old center could get back on the ice with the Phantoms and get in good enough shape to be called up to the Flyers, where he played 35 games last season, scoring seven goals and five assists.

Potulny played 15 games for the Phantoms and had nine goals and six assists.

It earned him the callup he was looking for and last night he played his second game with the Flyers this season. He tallied one assist in the Flyers' 8-2 win over the Penguins. He hadn't played with the Flyers since Oct. 20.

"It's good to be up here again," Potulny said. "I'll do whatever I can to help the team and take it 1 day at a time. I'm just going to do my job and play hard."

For Potulny, last night meant playing on the fourth line and being an "energy" guy. That means getting on the forecheck, forcing turnovers and playing responsible defense.

But it doesn't mean coach John Stevens doesn't want him to try and score. "He said use my speed and if you get the chance to score, do what you can but be responsible," Potulny said.

Stevens said he was glad to have Potulny back. To make room for him, Steve Downie was sent to the Phantoms.

"[Potulny] has more experience," Stevens said. "I think he's a really competitive kid. He's known as a scoring player, but he's also good defensively. He's good on faceoffs, he's got a lot of speed and he's got a lethal shot.

"He's going to be on the fourth line, but in time, he's going to be a guy who can move up and down the lineup."

Snap shots

Also back on the bench last night was defenseman Lasse Kukkonen. After sitting the last two games, partially to rest some nagging bruises and partially to work on getting his game back, Kukkonen is ready to go. "I'm feeling better now," he said. "I had a couple of bruises in my legs and I wasn't playing at the level I can play and I wasn't moving as fast" . . .

Also back on the bench last night was defenseman . After sitting the last two games, partially to rest some nagging bruises and partially to work on getting his game back, Kukkonen is ready to go. "I'm feeling better now," he said. "I had a couple of bruises in my legs and I wasn't playing at the level I can play and I wasn't moving as fast" . . .

Derian Hatcher was a surprise scratch. According to coach John Stevens, Hatcher is having trouble with fluid on the knee he recently had surgery on.

"Yeah, he's got a sore knee there, he's still having trouble with his knee. We're going to give him some time to rest here and see how he responds," Stevens said.

"He didn't skate [yesterday morning], he's got some fluid in his knee again. There's irritation there. He's responded well to rest before. Give him some rest, try to build his strength again. The problem is, with a little bit of fluid there, the muscles don't fire the way they're supposed to. We're trying to get the strength back up there so he's not at risk." *