Ryan Potulny got his chance earlier this week.

Today it will be Alexandre Picard.

The Flyers yesterday sent Potulny back to the Phantoms and brought up the 22-year-old, 6-2, 220-pound defenseman who played 62 games with the big club last year.

Picard did not win a roster spot out of camp because the team had gotten so much deeper during the offseason. He was sent back to the AHL for playing time and development, and during that time he has been a standout player.

"I'm a young player and coming into training camp I could see what was going on and I knew with the signings this summer it wasn't going to be easy," Picard said. "I went down to the Phantoms with the right attitude and with the team over there, we've got some great young players and we got off to a real good start. I'm playing really well and I'm confident out there."

Picard said he did not expect to be called up, especially since the Flyers have six healthy defensemen and there is a very good chance that Derian Hatcher will be back after missing two games with fluid on his right knee.

Hatcher skated yesterday and felt good, according to coach John Stevens, and he will likely tonight play against Carolina at the Wachovia Center.

"He felt great today, he looked like he got some of his strength back so he's a real possibility for [tonight]," Stevens said.

Picard also will likely play, and that means two other defensemen will be healthy scratches.

"I was really surprised when I came in [yesterday morning] because the Phantoms were playing Toronto [last night]," he said. "There are no injuries or anything, so it was really a big surprise and we'll see where that takes us."

Picard is an offensive, puck-moving defenseman who will give the Flyers more mobility on the back end. Last season, he had three goals and 19 assists, five coming in one game against New Jersey.

"[Picard] has played extremely well and we wanted to get him in for a practice, plus with the uncertainty with [Hatcher] we just kind of wanted to evaluate our back end and give him a chance," Stevens said.

In 24 games with the Phantoms, Picard has five goals and 15 assists. How long he stays with the Flyers will depend on his ability to play at that level in the NHL.

"I think if you ask [Picard], 'Would you rather come up play a game and go back or not play any,' I think any player would rather come up and play," Stevens said. "His length of stay here will be evaluated on his performance. He looks like he's playing with confidence up here. He's made the step where he's a consistent player and that's what we look for in young players."

Snap shots

The Flyers have beaten Carolina three times this season, something difficult to do against a team as good as the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes.

"They're a good team," said John Stevens. "It's going to be very difficult. Their power play poses a big threat. Transition offense seems to be their philosophy, they've got five on the attack all the time. But they've been up and down also lately. They seem to lose big or win big. But we have had success against them. We seem to get up for them and we're going to need to play well again."

Carolina has lost three games in a row by a 15-5 margin. *