VOORHEES, N.J. – Kimmo Timonen’s return from injury suddenly seems much closer than that of Philadelphia Flyers defence partner Braydon Coburn.
The all-star was all but ruled out for the season a week ago, on the eve of the Eastern Conference finals, when it was revealed he had a blood clot in his left ankle. But after a visit to his doctor Thursday, just hours before the Flyers extended their season with a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the prognosis got a whole lot better.
If Timonen gets through practice without any problems Saturday, and can deal with numbness and pain in his injured foot, he expects to be in the lineup Sunday in Pittsburgh when the Flyers try to stay alive in Game 5.
“At least now I know there’s no danger,” the 33-year-old Timonen said Friday after skating on his own for 35 minutes. “It’s just a matter of how much pain I can take. It takes only 15 minutes to skate, and I can’t feel my toes. That is the biggest thing. When that happens, the pain comes in, but I’m sure we’ve got some medicine for pain.”
For Coburn, it appeared earlier this week that his playing status depended solely on when the severe swelling around his left eye subsided. He has been out since the opening minutes of Game 2 when a deflected shot struck him in the face.
Coburn’s eye was swollen shut, but improved enough that he was able to practise Wednesday. That gave false hope that he might be able to play Thursday, and now his availability for Sunday also seems very much in doubt.
The 23-year-old defenceman rode the stationary bike on Friday and declined to speak to reporters after the workout. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he hasn’t been told that Coburn has a concussion, but added that Coburn “just doesn’t feel right.”
“Nobody has ever said that to me,” Holmgren said. “He got hit in the head with a puck, at a high rate of speed, and he doesn’t feel right.”
Holmgren said a few days earlier that Coburn had a rough flight back from Pittsburgh after Sunday’s game, including lightheadedness and vomiting, but that he had recovered from those symptoms by Monday.
“He is going through some struggles right now,” Holmgren added Friday. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him and we just want to be careful with him.”
The initial fear for Timonen was that the clot could break free from his ankle and create serious health problems that could threaten his career or force amputation of his toes. Dr. Ronald Fairman, the chief of vascular surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, told Timonen that concern has been alleviated.
Timonen was injured in Game 4 of the second round against Montreal when he blocked a shot, but continued playing and was back in for Game 5 despite feeling numbness in his foot.
The clot hasn’t grown in the 2 1/2 weeks since Timonen was injured and doctors don’t believe it will get bigger.
“I went to the hospital. I didn’t know what to expect,” Timonen said. “I didn’t expect this news. Obviously, this is a good chance for me to play, and I wanted to make sure, and I’m sure everyone else wanted to make sure that there is absolutely no danger at all. That’s not the risk I want to take, and I’m sure nobody wants to take that risk.
“I’ve got to trust the doctors.”
Having Timonen back would provide a big boost for the Flyers. His ability to carry the puck and ease Philadelphia’s transition game from defence to offence could prove to be a key asset in getting through the clogged-up neutral zone.
“Kimmo is one of the best puck-moving defencemen in the league,” goalie Martin Biron said. “He’s even better on the ice when you don’t notice him because he does the little things right all the time. He makes guys think twice. It’s no secret he’s an all-star.
“When you play against him or play with him, that’s when you appreciate his full value.”
The unexpected emotional lift of having such an important player back in the dressing room can’t be quantified.
“He’s a huge part of our team,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “Through this year he’s progressed, and in the playoffs he’s really taken his game to another level. I think just his presence around our team all year, he’s got deep respect by all his teammates. He just has composure all the time. I think that’s infectious on our team.”