For the last 3 weeks, the Flyers have been walking wounded.
Yesterday, for the first time since Oct. 27, the Flyers finally had a full squad for practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. So full, in fact, that they may need to send a player or two back to Adirondack to make room for the healed.
That's a good problem to have for a team that has lost 30 man-games to injury this season.
Perhaps the most important piece in that equation is Danny Briere, who injured his right quad muscle (just above the knee) in that Oct. 27 game against Washington. Briere practiced with the team for the second day in a row and said the workout was encouraging.
"I felt pretty good," Briere said. "I was able to do all of the drills. I'm very happy with how everything went."
Briere needs to meet with the doctors again before a decision for his status in tomorrow's game against Ottawa can be rendered. Unlike Monday, Briere skated for the full practice and was skating with his previous linemates, Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk.
Van Riemsdyk made a return of his own yesterday, just 3 days after a Carter slap shot nearly shattered the tip of his left pinkie finger. Not only did the shot cause a "fleck" fracture, but he also needed 20-plus stitches in the finger.
"It will get better every day," van Riemsdyk said. "It's just something you've got to mentally push yourself through. It's probably not going to get any worse, so I don't think I have anything to worry about there."
Van Riemsdyk admitted it was an adjustment trying to hold his stick with the pinkie bandaged up but said he will try and deal with it in order to play.
Defensemen Ryan Parent (groin) and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (concussion) also practiced, but their status for the game has not yet been decided. Both players said they felt good. Tollefsen has not had any headaches.
If either Parent or Tollefsen cannot play, Oskars Bartulis, who was recalled from Adirondack on Monday, will fill in.
If Briere is ready to return, forward David Laliberte - who has posted three points in four games - will be sent back to Adirondack. Flyers coach John Stevens said Laliberte would not bump any other player from the lineup.
Still, those decisions are another 24 hours away.
"I think [today] will be a true test after they recover [from practice]," Stevens said. "They skated pretty hard. Danny looked good. Danny had good jump. Whether Tolly or Ryan will be ready to play, I don't know."
Meeting the military
Although today is Veterans Day, the Flyers took time after practice yesterday to mingle with 20 members of the armed forces stationed at Fort Dix (N.J.). Almost every Flyer stopped by the locker room to sign autographs, take pictures and chat with America's bravest.
"We talked about the great appreciation that we have for our veterans," John Stevens said. "They're putting themselves in harm's way, spending time away from their families."
The Flyers will honor all branches of the military during tomorrow night's game.
"We are bigger fans of you than you are of us," Stevens told the group. "I can promise you that."
The Flyers conducted a fun but tiring shootout drill at the end of practice to stay focused on the overtime point grabber. With the team evenly split into two sides, the two teams raced to see who could score and finish all of the remaining pucks first. The losing team had to do pushups and hockey's version of jumping jacks. "We've tried to put in some kind of a challenge where there's repercussions at the end, there's consequences," John Stevens said. "We've had some success with that routine." The Flyers have won their last two shootouts, the first time they have won two consecutively since March 2008 . . . Oskars Bartulis should be a lock to make Latvia's Olympic team.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.