MONTREAL - Ian Laperriere, the Flyers' scrappy right winger, is expected to return to the lineup Saturday afternoon against Montreal, a club source said Friday.
Laperriere skated on a line with Blair Betts and Darroll Powe during Friday's practice. He has been sidelined since April 22, when he blocked a slapshot against New Jersey and suffered a bruised brain, a broken orbital bone, and a concussion. He needed nearly 70 stitches to repair a cut above his right eye.
A neurologist has cleared Laperriere to play, the Flyers said.
High-scoring center Jeff Carter, recovering from a broken foot, also skated at Friday's practice. He scored on a wraparound goal and appeared to be regaining his form but remained doubtful for Saturday.
"You never know," said one club source, smiling coyly.
The Flyers lead the Eastern Conference finals, two games to one, heading into Saturday's game at the Bell Centre.
Montreal, showing much more physicality than it had in the two games at the Wachovia Center, won most of the puck battles and continually had traffic in front of goalie Michael Leighton in its 5-1 rout of the visiting Flyers in Game 3 Thursday.
Laperriere, 36, a Montreal native, is a superb shot-blocker and defender.
He gives the Flyers "a veteran presence in the locker room," center Danny Briere said after Friday's crisp practice. "He's a guy who is very energetic in the dressing room as much as on the ice to get us going, to get us pumped up. He talks a lot in the dressing room and on the ice. So just his presence, I think, is going to bring a lot.
"And we all know what he does on the ice. He's tough to play against. He finishes his checks. . . . He's one of those guys that at the end of the night might not have a couple of goals and a couple of assists, but he does a lot of little things right that helps out your team."
The Flyers would not allow Laperriere or Carter to talk with the media.
Laperriere originally was expected to miss the rest of the season, but, like Simon Gagne, his recovery has been surprisingly quick.
Gagne, a veteran left winger, has seven goals in his seven games (six wins) since returning from a broken foot; he scored the winning goal in overtime in his first game back, cutting Boston's series lead to 3-1 in the conference semifinals.
Like the rest of his teammates, Gagne said Laperriere would be welcomed with open arms.
"He's a character guy," said Gagne, who called Laperriere the team's best penalty killer. "He's a role guy that, at this time of the season, is really important. He's a guy that's going to do everything for his teammates. He's going to block shots. We all know that. He's going to be physical; he's going to be tough to play against."
Added Gagne: "He's the type of guy you like to have on the ice when there's two minutes left in the game, when you've got the lead, or for checking the other team's best player."
Laperriere's expected return aside, the Flyers know they must give a much better all-around effort if they are going to win Game 4 and take a stranglehold on the series.
"We got what we deserved," captain Mike Richards said of Game 3, adding that the loss "better be" a wake-up call.
Defenseman Chris Pronger, who was minus-3 in a rare poor performance Thursday, said the Canadiens are "obviously a team that plays a lot different at home. They play with a lot of energy and a lot of fire. They feed off the crowd. We need to understand that and play at another level."
If not, this series will be tied going back to Philadelphia.