Nothing has changed physically for Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen since he was hit in the left ankle by a puck in Game 4 of the Montreal series and sustained what eventually was diagnosed as a blood clot.
But with doctors now telling him that the injury can't get any worse and that he has the green light to play, Timonen finds that his only obstacle to being on the ice tomorrow for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins is dealing with the pain and numbness.
The 33-year-old all-star skated yesterday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees before a light workout. He will test the foot and ankle during a full practice today before making a final decision.
"It comes down to how much pain I can take," Timonen said yesterday. "I feel confident that I'll be ready to go on Sunday, but I won't know for sure until I practice with the team and really be out there with the boys and see how it feels. So we'll see after practice for sure."
The return of Timonen would be welcome news for a Flyers team that won for the first time in the series, 4-2, Thursday night at the Wachovia Center. The Penguins still lead by three games to one in the best-of-seven matchup and can clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals with a win tomorrow at Mellon Arena, where they are 7-0 this postseason.
To have Timonen anchoring a defensive unit against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and quarterbacking the power play would give the Flyers a lift.
Although he received clearance to play, Timonen said the symptoms of his injury remained the same.
"It takes only 15 minutes to skate, and I can't feel my toes," he said. "That's the biggest thing. When that happens, the pain comes in. But I'm sure we've got some medicine for pain. So we'll see how it goes. The pain and numbness are still what we're dealing with here."
Timonen was ruled out indefinitely, presumably for the entire Pittsburgh series, when doctors found the blood clot May 8, eight days after he suffered the injury when hit by a shot from Montreal's Andrei Markov.
He said that when he entered the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday for an examination by Ronald Fairman, the hospital's chief of vascular surgery, he didn't expect to hear what he heard.
"It was unbelievable," he said. "I was just hoping the guys would be able to win and I would get a chance to play on Sunday. Like I said before the series started, it's my dream to be able to play in this kind of situation. Now I'm back in it, so it's a pretty good feeling.
"I've got to trust the doctor's opinion about this. I have no idea how this thing works and how it gets better. They said 100 percent there's no danger, so that was the biggest thing. I don't think it matters what I think."
Flyers coach John Stevens said having the ability and composure of Timonen in the lineup was huge. Still, he cautioned that he couldn't say with certainty that Timonen would be back.
If Timonen does play, he will play a significant role in trying to neutralize the high-powered Pittsburgh offense led by Crosby and Malkin.
"He's going to play against both those guys," Stevens said. "Hopefully if he feels well enough to play, he can play big minutes."
The status of defenseman Braydon Coburn for tomorrow's game seems a bit more uncertain than that of Timonen. Coburn, who received more than 50 stitches near his left eye after being hit by a puck in Game 2, did not skate yesterday and declined to meet with reporters.
General manager Paul Holmgren said Coburn was feeling "a lot of pressure" and did not quite know what to do.
"He just doesn't feel right," Holmgren said. "He's a little antsy right now about all the attention that's put on him, and he's trying to do the right thing for himself and for his team. We'll have a better idea on that" after today's practice.
Asked whether Coburn was suffering from concussion-like symptoms, Holmgren replied, "We've continued to monitor that.
"I'm not in a position to say [he has a concussion] because nobody's ever said it to me. But he got hit in the head with a puck at a high rate of speed, and he doesn't feel right."