With Chris Pronger expected to miss at least six games because of an eye injury, Matt Walker and Andreas Lilja could be part of the Flyers' defensive rotation for the next two weeks. Or longer.
The veterans had been either a healthy scratch or the sixth defenseman.
"It's not the way you want to go in, but there's an opportunity for me," Lilja said after a short practice Tuesday in Voorhees. "We're all going to have to chip in and take over his minutes. It's a tough job, but we can all chip in and do what you have to do."
"It's a chance to get more games in, but it's tough to see anybody go down, especially when it has to do with your eye," said Walker, whose team will use some new defensive parings Wednesday night when it faces the free-falling Canadiens in Montreal. "Hopefully, Chris is back; the sooner, the better. It's best for him and best for the team."
Pronger, 37, was examined by Stephen Goldman, the team's eye doctor, again on Tuesday, and general manager Paul Holmgren reported that the defenseman was "progressing very well."
In Monday's 4-2 win over Toronto, Pronger was hit by an inadvertent stick from the Maple Leafs' Mikhail Grabovski.
For the time being, the Flyers will have one extra forward and no extra defensemen.
The Flyers have only about $21,000 in cap room, so they don't have many options. They could, however, get an extra defenseman if they send Walker ($1.7 million cap hit) back to Adirondack; he cleared waivers earlier this month and wouldn't have to clear again until after Nov. 4.
With Walker's cap hit off the books, the Flyers would have enough room to recall defensemen Oskars Bartulis ($600,000 cap hit) and Erik Gustaffson ($900,000) from the Phantoms.
But for now, Walker - who has played in just two of the team's eight games - will be given a shot to stay in the defense's rotation. He provides a physical presence.
Coach Peter Laviolette tried to downplay the loss of Pronger, the team's captain and defensive leader - and someone who quarterbacks the power play and contributes mightily on the penalty kill.
"You have to deal with it and you'd like to get by," Laviolette said. "We'd much rather have him in there; he's a world-class defenseman. In saying that, we were able to manage without him [Monday], and we're going to have to do it moving forward. We've got great defensemen back there, a good core."
With Pronger out, forward Matt Read is expected to get more time on the power play, and defenseman Andrej Meszaros figures to get increased action on special teams.
Montreal (1-5-2) is off to its worst start in 70 years. The Canadiens have lost their first five home games (0-3-2) for the first time in franchise history.
"Yes, they've been struggling a little bit, but we're going to have to have the same mind-set as when we played in Ottawa," forward Max Talbot said. "They were a team that was struggling, and we came out and had a fast start. We're going to have to do the same thing."
The Flyers built a 4-0 first-period lead en route to a 7-2 win on Oct. 18.
Ilya Bryzgalov, who sat out Monday's victory, probably will return to the nets. He has allowed a total of nine goals in his last two starts.
"Sometimes you've got to take it to find yourself," he said about having a day off. "See the game from this side, realize what's going on. Maybe you did something wrong. Sometimes it needs to be done."
He called his previous starts against Washington and St. Louis "unacceptable. I think I need to elevate my game with the speed a little bit. That's the main thing."
Breakaways. The Flyers plan to keep 18-year-old center Sean Couturier on the roster for the foreseeable future, according to an NHL source familiar with the situation. After Couturier plays in his ninth game Wednesday, the Flyers will have to decide whether to keep him or send him to juniors because his three-year entry-level deal begins when he plays in his 10th game. . . . The Flyers' power play has clicked at 27.5 percent, compared to Montreal's 9.4 percent.