VOORHEES, N.J. – Braydon Coburn’s swollen and battered face looked much worse than the young Philadelphia Flyers defenceman said it felt.
Just two days after a deflected puck caught him near his left eye, Coburn sat in front of reporters and television cameras Tuesday morning to discuss his status and what happened in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final.
The eye was still swollen shut, forcing him to the sideline at least for Tuesday night’s home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I feel fine,” the 23-year-old said. “My eye is swollen shut, so it makes it a little hard to do things. Besides that, I feel all right. I think as soon as my eye opens up, we’ll re-evaluate what’s going on.
“As soon as it opens up, I’m going to play.”
It is hard to call Coburn lucky, but the injury could have been much worse. Coburn escaped without any broken bones, without an injury to the eye, and without a concussion.
He lasted only 1:51 into Sunday’s 4-2 loss that dropped the Flyers into an 0-2 hole. While he defended Evgeni Malkin, a shot by Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar caromed off Malkin’s stick and struck the visor-less Coburn flush in the face.
The puck opened a gash that bled profusely once Coburn fell to the ice. It required over 50 stitches to close. Coburn said he wasn’t scared because he felt the puck hit bone and not his eye.
Once he does return to action, Coburn said he will don a shield to protect the area. He wasn’t sure if he would’ve avoided injury had he worn a visor.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “If I would have ducked, that probably would have prevented the injury, too. I could have (got) out of the way, but it may have hit it. It may have come up underneath it, but it’s very likely that probably would have helped.”
Even though Coburn isn’t ready to play, the Flyers were happy to see their teammate back at the practice facility after learning that the injury is more short-term and not career-threatening.
Facing the prospect of a quick elimination against the Penguins, any bit of good news was embraced.
“Right when it happened, you couldn’t help but think of the worst,” forward Mike Richards said. “Being there, and seeing the blood, it was kind of a shock, but knowing that he’s going to be all right, and kind of seeing him around gives you a little more motivation.”
For now, rookie defenceman Ryan Parent will rejoin the lineup in Coburn’s place. The Flyers’ back line was already dealing with the absence of top defenceman Kimmo Timonen, who was lost indefinitely on the eve of the series because of a blood clot in his ankle. Timonen is not expected to play again this season.
With Coburn out, the Flyers are without their top two defencemen, who were being counted on to shut down Pittsburgh’s high-flying forwards: Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Marian Hossa. Coburn and Timonen, Philadelphia’s top defence pairing, also help on the power play and in the transition game.
“We’re fully confident Ryan can come in and play well,” Flyers coach John Stevens said Tuesday. “He’s an excellent defender. If anything, he’s a guy that has the skill set to come in and help us right now.”
Philadelphia went with only five defencemen for the final 58 minutes on Sunday, forcing 35-year-old Derian Hatcher to log 28 1/2 minutes of ice time.
Parent played 22 games in the regular season and was in the lineup for the post-season opener at Washington on April 11, but not since.
“It’s tough being out of the game for a while, but we’re working hard in practice to make sure in case something like this had happened, that you’d be ready to go,” Parent said.
The Penguins also faced some adversity Tuesday. Veteran forward Gary Roberts was sick in the morning, leaving him as a game-time decision, while 19-year-old centre Jordan Staal was dealing with the death of his grandfather.
Staal was expected to play Tuesday night, then head to Thunder Bay, Ont., for the funeral, and rejoin the club Wednesday.