Managing Bryzgalov's pain

Ilya Bryzgalov's return date will depend on his pain tolerance and swelling level, Paul Holmgren said. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

TORONTO — For the Flyers, it is undoubtedly a good sign that Ilya Bryzgalov felt well enough on Wednesday to be riding an stationary bike at their practice facility.

Paul Holmgren remained optimistic on Tuesday that Bryzgalov would be able to begin skating on Thursday back in Philadelphia, while his mates are busy preparing for the Maple Leafs here in Toronto.

For Bryzgalov, getting his right foot - with that chip fracture - back into his goalie skate will be the biggest test.

According to Holmgren, Bryzgalov’s return date is based on his pain tolerance and swelling level, more than anything else. Simply: the more the area is swollen, the more it will hurt. Thus, it may take an extra day or two until Bryzgalov is fully comfortable in his clunky skates again - which do offer a thick, plastic protector around the edge of the skate.

One avenue the Flyers are unlikely to go down, according to a Philadelphia-area orthopedist, is a cortisone-type shot to numb the area and allow him to play.

“I think very rarely would a shot be used to manage the pain,” Dr. Steven Raikin, a foot and ankle specialist at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, told the Daily News. “It would especially not be used in the foot itself.

“Depending on the pain level, the best way to treat a chip fracture is with ice and protection.”

Dr. Raikin, who recently operated on James van Riemsdyk’s foot but is not monitoring or treating Bryzgalov, conceded that Bryzgalov has little risk of damaging his foot by returning too quickly.

“Goaltenders, as you know, need a lot of side-to-side movement,” Dr. Raikin said. “That will put a lot of pressure on the area.”

If you recall, there is a historical precedent of treating chip fractures with pain-killing shots - especially around this time of year.

Back in 2002, former Flyer Dave Babych - who also suffered a fracture in his foot in April, 1998 - brought forth a law suit against the Flyers, parent company Comcast-Spectacor and then-team doctor Arthur Bartolozzi. Babych said the Flyers pressured him to play in the playoffs that year and he was given pain-managing injections, which he argued shortened his career.

The Flyers and Comcast-Spectacor were dismissed from the case. Babych, 41 at the time when the Atlantic City jury ruled, was awarded $1.02 million in compensation and $350,000 for pain and suffering.

BROWN SIGNS: The Flyers did not play on Wednesday, but it marked the second time they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning this week. That's because prized University of Minnesota-Duluth prospect J.T. Brown signed with the Tampa Bay.

The Flyers had invested considerable time and resources into signing Brown, including hosting him at their prospect camp last July in Philadelphia and scouting him heavily throughout the last two seasons. They were one of the finalists to sign him, along with Boston.

Brown, 21, just wrapped up his sophomore season at Minnesota-Duluth with 47 points in 39 games, good for 12th in the nation in scoring. He was named the “Most Outstanding Player” at the 2011 Frozen Four as a freshman, when the Bulldogs won the national title.

With players signing entry-level deals, as Brown did, a decision like that rarely comes down to money. There are maximums for entry-level deals. 

Turns out, the country club-bound Lightning could offer something the Flyers could not: a chance to join the NHL lineup immediately. Brown is expected to play for Tampa Bay against Winnipeg on Saturday night. By playing in the final games of this season, Brown will already burn one year off his two-year deal, allowing him to become a free agent after next season. That was another incentive.

“Definitely exciting,” Brown told the Tampa Bay Times. “It came down to having the right opportunity and the right fit.” 

I’m told the Flyers have other irons in the fire with undrafted college free agents, though Brown would have been their big catch.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers