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Paul Holmgren won't accept injuries as a reason Flyers struggled

Flyers have led NHL with number of players used, 37, but GM Paul Holmgren says good teams know how to overcome injuries.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren says he won't use injuries as an excuse for team's struggles. (Matt Slocum/AP file photo)
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren says he won't use injuries as an excuse for team's struggles. (Matt Slocum/AP file photo)Read more

KURTIS FOSTER was laughing.

Unless you include call-ups Erik Gustafsson and Brandon Manning, who played a combined 34 games with the team last season, no defenseman in the Flyers' lineup in Tuesday night's win against the Bruins was on last year's roster.

Foster and Luke Schenn were the only two to start this season with the Flyers.

For some, a glimpse at the Flyers' injury list - with more than $30 million committed to 12 players - at the close of the season may be a good reason why the Stanley Cup playoffs will go on without Philadelphia for the second time since 1995.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren isn't buying it.

"Good teams find a way to fight through stuff like this," Holmgren said. "Was it a factor? Probably. But at the same time, you need to fight through these things, and we didn't."

No team in the NHL has used more than the 37 different players the Flyers dressed for at least one game this season. Carolina is tied. Tampa and Florida are at 36. The Devils and Rangers are at 35 players used. And the Rangers are heading to the playoffs.

Still, a few names on the Flyers' injury list are overstated. Holmgren never had plans for Chris Pronger to be in his lineup this season. Same with Matt Walker. Forward Jody Shelley had played only one game before undergoing hip surgery in January. Missing Max Talbot (leg fracture) and Zac Rinaldo (high ankle sprain) hurts, but those two players shouldn't swing the success of the overall team one way or the other.

The Flyers' real hit was on defense. Andrej Meszaros started the season after quick recovery from a torn Achilles' and suffered two separate shoulder injuries, the latter of which required surgery. Braydon Coburn has a separated shoulder. Bruno Gervais had an abdominal tear, which required surgery. Nick Grossmann has a concussion. Kimmo Timonen will miss the final three games with a compression fracture in his right foot.

The amazing thing is the timing of the injuries. Grossmann went out March 19. Meszaros was hurt on March 27. Coburn left the lineup on March 29.

The Flyers' four games beginning on March 30 were their best four of the season. The Flyers are 8-5 since all three of those defenders have been out of the lineup.

The Flyers had about a monthlong window, with nearly complete health, from late February to late March to make a run, and they failed to capitalize.

"I don't think injuries played into it," Danny Briere said. "Other than Jake [Voracek], who else had a good season compared to their standards? It was everybody at the same time, together. When everybody has an off year at the same time, it doesn't set up for success."

All of that, though, is what makes the evaluating process that much tougher for Holmgren this summer.

"I think there's a lot of things that we've got to talk about," Holmgren said. "Our inconsistent play is another thing. There's many things you go through in the aftermath of a year like this. We'll talk and have our meetings with players, then talk with coaches, and then we'll try to get better."

'Bryz' stalls

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov held court with reporters after practice on Wednesday, which has become an entertaining affair over his two seasons in Philadelphia.

The conversation was quick-witted, and Bryzgalov seemed honest with his answers, especially about the addition of Steve Mason and the rest he has provided for Bryzgalov. That changed, though, when Bryzgalov was asked: "Do you want to come back next year?"

Unlike his previous answers, which were instantaneous, Bryzgalov deflected an answer by commenting on a female reporter's blouse: "Good blouse." Then, after a pause, Bryzgalov said: "What? Of course!"

The Flyers can buy Bryzgalov out of the remaining 7 years and $34 million on his deal. He would be paid $1.63 million each of the next 14 years to not play for the Flyers - and immediately become a free agent eligible to sign with another team.

He also was asked whether he had a good relationship with his teammates. Bryzgalov answered: "I think so, yeah." When asked about his relationship with coach Peter Laviolette, Bryzgalov was less clear:

"We have some things. We are not allowed to talk [about it]," Bryzgalov said. "It's not our job. There were two persons involved in the conversations, and I don't think I have a right to speak up about it to make it clear. Not because we have a bad relationship."

Slap shots

Today could mark the final home game for Danny Briere as a Flyer, should the team exercise its compliance buyout on Briere's remaining 2-year contract this summer . . . NHL Central Scouting released its final draft rankings for prospects. As expected, Seth Jones - son of former NBA player Popeye Jones - aims to become the first American selected No. 1 overall since Patrick Kane in 2007 . . . Ricky Lucas, a member of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Program, was named the inaugural recipient of the NHL / Thurgood Marshall College fund academic scholarship.