PITTSBURGH - If the role of the ultimate utility guy bothers Lasse Kukkonen it's impossible to tell.

In or out of the lineup, on offense or defense, the Finnish defenseman just smiles and stays positive.

Yesterday had to be especially hard for him though. In the morning he was moved from defense to fourth-line center, a position he hasn't played since he was a teenager, and in the afternoon he was placed on waivers in a move to make roster space.

"It's just a cap thing, a roster thing," general manager Paul Holmgren said yesterday about exposing Kukkonen to waivers. "Right now he's going to stay with the Flyers and go to Montreal and if we don't have any more injuries he'll continue to play there."

The problem, Holmgren said, is that the Flyers are up against the salary cap limit and have two injured players whose salaries count against the cap.

Both Danny Briere (groin) and Riley Cote (oblique tear) are out on short-term injury and their salaries are still being counted. If there is another injury to a forward, the Flyers do not have the cap space to call up another AHL player.

Kukkonen, who has been mostly a depth defenseman for the Flyers, could get claimed off of waivers by another team. If he clears and the Flyers call him back up, he could be claimed then as well.

Meanwhile, Kukkonen centered the fourth line last night against Pittsburgh.

"You don't see that too often," Kukkonen said of moving from defense to center. "I think it's fun. It should be interesting. I played one game when I was like 16 or 17. That was 10 years ago.

"I plan to play defense," he said, laughing. "I'll let [Josh Gratton and Arron Asham] go and do the forecheck. I'll be the third guy high and try to keep it simple.

"I don't think I'll be taking any faceoffs in our end. If it's in the offensive end maybe," he said.

Coach John Stevens said he most likely will move his other centers onto that line throughout the game depending on the situation. Glen Metropolit was moved to center with Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble, a role he had when Briere was out after abdominal surgery.

"We'll see what happens," Stevens said. "I'll move Metro, [Mike Richards and Jeff Carter] through the middle, but [Kukkonen] could see a few shift in the middle."

No Shanahan news

Paul Holmgren said he has not heard anything from either Brendan Shanahan or his agent Rick Curran.

"I don't expect to hear anything from him before [this afternoon] or the end of the weekend," Holmgren said.

The free-agent Rangers forward has talked with the Flyers and Blackhawks, and several other teams are said to be interested, including New Jersey and Pittsburgh. *