The Flyers seemingly dodged a bullet with defenseman Andrej Meszaros.
Or did they?
According to general manager Paul Holmgren, Meszaros will play on Wednesday in Buffalo. But Meszaros was not on the ice for practice on Monday.
Officially, the Flyers are calling it a “maintenance day” for Meszaros.
Yes, Brayden Schenn and Danny Briere also missed practice, but Meszaros’ absence raises a few eyebrows.
In text messages exchanged with the Daily News yesterday, Holmgren would not confirm whether or not Meszaros is actually injured, though that certainly appears to be the case.
On Saturday night in Phoenix, Meszaros was crunched into the boards on a hit by Raffi Torres with just 19 seconds to go in the Flyers’ 4-2 win over the Coyotes. He hobbled off the ice, heading directly to the locker room, while clutching his shoulder.
Holmgren would only say on Sunday that Meszaros is “doing good.”
As previously mentioned, Meszaros has had shoulder issues before in his career. He missed nearly 6 months in 2009 with surgery to repair a torn labrum. Meszaros still wears a brace on his shoulder for added support.
Injuries are the reason why defenseman Matt Walker was put through re-entry waivers last Thursday. Walker flew to Southern California to meet the team on their road trip as an insurance policy. Walker did not play in either of the Flyers’ two West Coast games.
That’s because rookies Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall admirably stepped up in the absence of Chris Pronger and Andreas Lilja.
Neither player looked out of place, despite the fact that they are still playing their first handful of games in the league.
On the trip, Bourdon and Marshall combined to play 40:09 over the games in Anaheim and Phoenix. Neither player was a minus in the game against Phoenix, but playing on separate defense pairs in Anaheim, they were a combined minus-3.
“It’s nice that we’re getting contributions from them,” coach Peter Laviolette said of his rookie-laden lineup. “They have all come in and done a good job. We are asking totally different things from some players, from A-to-Z, and they have all done it well.”
Holmgren spent time last week sorting through league rosters trying to determine availability of a defenseman by trade. Before Walker was added to the roster, the Flyers had nearly $5.1 million in available salary cap cushion.
“From what I gather, a lot of teams are looking for defensemen,” Holmgren said in Anaheim. “And if they have an excess, they are probably not looking to move them. There’s a lot of injuries right now in the league and a lot of them are defensemen.”
After a two-game audition this past weekend, Marshall and Bourdon seemed to have quelled any fears that existed about how they would perform when thrusted into more full-time roles.
According to sources, the Flyers do not have interest in two defensemen that would have readily been available: free agent veteran Bryan McCabe and Calgary’s Cory Sarich.
Sarich, 33, is in the last season of a 5-year, $18 million contract. He has been a healthy scratch for 11 of the Flames’ games this season and reportedly requested a trade last week to escape from the press box. Though his cap hit is $3.6 million, which the Flyers could not afford once Pronger is healthy again, I am told they are not even interested in him if he hits re-entry waivers to nab him at half price for the rest of the season.
McCabe, 36, played out his 5-year, $28.75 million deal with the Rangers last season but did not garner enough interest for a contract this year. He would have been needed to be signed to a deal by Dec. 1 in order to be eligible to play this season.
But, what happens if Meszaros’ injury turns out to be more serious than the Flyers are currently leading on? Walker would be inserted into the lineup to round out 6 players.
Erik Gustafsson is another 3 to 4 weeks away from playing again. And aside from Oskars Bartulis - who is currently also injured but surely would not clear re-entry waivers at half his $600,000 salary - the Flyers do not have another NHL ready defenseman in the AHL.
JVR PROGRESSING: James van Riemsdyk skated on Monday in drills with his teammates for the first time since Nov. 24. He has been nursing a slight muscular tear in his midsection. He is day-to-day according to Paul Holmgren, but could play as soon as Wednesday in Buffalo.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers