Flyers' R.J. Umberger takes 1st step toward returning

Flyers right winger R.J. Umberger, sidelined since blocking a Blake Wheeler shot Nov. 7 in Winnipeg,  returned to practice Thursday, a first step toward returning to the lineup.

"It felt better than expected; it was a good first time, and hopefully I can be able to build from it and get in position to play soon," said Umberger, who suffered an apparent foot injury.

His return to action has been slower than he had hoped.

"My timetable was two weeks ago," he cracked.

He has watched the Flyers' offense collapse; they haven't scored an even-strength goal in four-plus games, and they are averaging a league-low 1.73 goals per game.

"You always want to help out," he said. When you are sidelined, "all you can do is support the guys. Being injured, you're kind of away from everybody and not part of the team. It's extremely tough, dealing with an injury and then dealing with not being part of anything."

Umberger, 33, has no goals and four assists in 11 games this season. Going back to last year, he is goal-less in his last 29 games.

He has missed the last eight games, and won't play Friday afternoon against visiting Nashville or Saturday afternoon against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

"It's 19 days right now, and it feels like an eternity," he said.

Umberger has missed 11 games with two separate injuries this season.

During training camp, Umberger was poised to rebound from a career-worst 15-point season. He had no ill effects from hip and abdominal surgery, saying that it was "refreshing" to feel healthy and that it had been a "long time since I felt like this."

But he has been healthy only in half of the Flyers' 22 games this season.

As for the team's offensive funk, Umberger said "it's not for a lack of talent or anything in this room. Sometimes it just gets in your head and scoring a goal is harder than it needs to be; it needs to be simplified --  (get) pucks on net, crash the net. You need dirty goals when you're not scoring goals."

Dirty, pretty, lucky. Right now, the Flyers will take any goals they can get.