After playing in just three of the Flyers' 33 games, Oskars Bartulis will be given a chance to contribute.
The young defenseman will replace Chris Pronger, a likely future Hall of Famer who had surgery on his right foot Friday and is expected to miss four to six weeks.
When the Flyers play host to the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon, Bartulis will be in the lineup for the first time since Nov. 1.
"It's always tough at first when you didn't play for such a long time," said Bartulis, who played four games with the AHL Phantoms while on a conditioning stint in late October. "I know I've practiced a lot, and now it's time to play. Just keep it simple."
Bartulis, 23, is expected to be paired with 39-year-old Sean O'Donnell. The two played the season's first two games together while Pronger was sidelined with a knee injury.
"I played with him in the preseason and a couple of games during the season, and I felt pretty good with him, pretty comfortable," Bartulis said.
O'Donnell, a 16-year NHL veteran, has confidence in Bartulis. "It's not like a guy who's being called up from the minors that you never played with," O'Donnell said. "Oskars played here last year. He played in the playoffs. He played in the Finals. He knows the system. I played with him two games when Chris didn't play early on, and everything went pretty well."
O'Donnell (plus-18) had been paired with Andrej Meszaros (plus-21), and the two have the best plus-minus rating of any NHL duo.
"Andrej is a great player and he's having a great year, but I'm not concerned about playing with Oskars at all," O'Donnell said. "He likes to talk out there; he's a smart defenseman, and he moves the puck well. As long as we communicate, I think we'll be fine."
As a bonus, Bartulis speaks Russian and can communicate with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
No call-ups planned
General manager Paul Holmgren said the Flyers have no plans to recall Danny Syvret or any defensemen from the AHL Phantoms.
By placing injured defenseman Matt Walker on the long-term injured list, the Flyers have cap space to recall a player if needed. Walker had successful hip surgery on Thursday, Holmgren said.
The Rangers have won eight of their last 11 road games, with goalie Henrik Lundqvist leading the way. He is 5-1 with a 1.81 GAA in his last six road starts. . . . The Flyers are on a 6-0-1 run and have won four straight. . . . Danny Briere leads the forwards with a plus-17 rating, and Jeff Carter has a team-best four game-winning goals. . . . Darroll Powe tops the team with 86 hits. . . . Pronger was placed on the injured-reserve list, freeing up a roster spot.
- Sam Carchidi