After being a healthy scratch for the last seven games, veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja will return to the Flyers’ lineup Thursday against visiting Nashville. He is expected to replace rookie Erik Gustafsson.
In 30 games, Lilja has three assists and is plus-3.
“Andreas has been a real good player for us," coach Peter Laviolette said. He's been "real professional coming out of the lineup. It’s tough. Guys want to play and those are tough decisions that have to be made. I think the youth and getting guys involved … sometimes decisions aren’t necessarily made based on somebody not playing well. It’s more about we have young players here coming up through the organization and you’ve got to give them an opportunity as well."
Gustafsson, who returned to the lineup Jan. 14 after missing two-plus months because of wrist surgery, has an assist and is plus-6 in 12 games.
Laviolette praised his play before adding, "We can only play six defensemen. It was a numbers thing more than anything else, but [Lilja’s] worked extremely hard with a real positive attitude."
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Prior to Thursday's game, the Flyers made a minor-league deal, acquiring right winger Matt Ford from Hershey in exchange for Adirondack defenseman Kevin Marshall, who may be best remembered for his dancing on HBO's 24/7.
Ford, 27, who was assigned to Adirondack, had 10 goals and 18 assists in 39 games this season. A year ago, the 6-1, 207-pounder had 26 goals for Lake Erie of the AHL.
Marshall, 22, played 10 games for the Flyers this season.
BTW, Ford was once teammates with Sidney Crosby at a Minnesota prep school.
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Ilya Bryzgalov (2.93 GAA, .896 save percentage) will be in the Flyers' nets; he will oppose Nashville backup Anders Lindback, who is 2-5 with a 2.65 GAA and .898 save percentage.
The Predators, who have won 10 of their last 11, are giving standout goalie Pekka Rinne (29-11-4, 2.40, .924) a rest.
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The Flyers will be facing a Nashville team that includes all-star defenseman Ryan Suter.
Suter is a prospective unrestricted free agent, and it's no secret that the Flyers have shown interest in him.
“Obviously he’s a good player, but I think we need to worry about who’s in the locker room right now," Claude Giroux said. "The trades are not up to us; that’s not our job and I think it’s important to stay focused on the things we have to do.”
Suter said he was "focused on playing in Nashville" and that he hoped to stay there.
The Preds are the NHL's hottest team.
Said Suter: "If we were struggling, they'd probably be trading me if I hadn't signed."
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Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk skated Thursday but will not play in the game. Both are recovering from concussions, and Briere said he is getting "close."
"I felt good today. I was able to push myself fairly hard on the ice at practice, which is a good sign," Briere said. "I haven’t had any contact, but I felt better than yesterday, so that’s a good sign."
Briere did not skate on Wednesday because of "little headaches. You’re kind of like in a fog almost walking around. I was always wondering before when I saw guys with concussions: 'How does it really feel when you’re in a fog?’ Now I know; you’re not quite yourself."
The veteran center estimated he had three or four concussions earlier in his career, but in those instances, he did not have symptoms and continued playing.
Briere said he was "confident that I’m not very far away. It’s not like I’m worried about my career or the season or anything like that. I really think I’m that close."
He still has not been able to take contact in practice, and that is the next step on his road to returning.
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Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.