Stunner: Flyers' Carter sidelined 3-4 weeks

Jeff Carter, left, was injured against Atlanta on Sunday night. (David Maialetti / Staff photographer)

     The Flyers’ playoff charge may have been derailed by the stunning news Monday that Jeff Carter, their leading scorer, will miss the next three to four weeks with a broken bone in his left foot.
     Carter was injured blocking a shot taken by Atlanta’s Clarke MacArthur in the first period of Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Thrashers. Carter played the rest of the game, but an MRI on Monday revealed the fracture.
    Carter, who has played in 286 straight games _ the third-longest streak in franchise history _ leads the Flyers with 33 goals and 60 points.
    “Obviously, he’s a big part of our team; he’s a big-time goal scorer that we rely on,” defenseman Chris Pronger said. “It’s going to take a group effort to kind of fill in from the offensive production standpoint, but he does a lot more things for our team than that. That’s where he’s going to be missed as well.”
    With a little less than three weeks left in the regular season, Carter wouldn’t return until the first-round of the playoffs _ if the Flyers get there.
    They entered Monday's action tied for fifth in the East, but are just four points ahead of ninth-place Atlanta. The Flyers have lost four of their last five games.

   "This year has been full of opportunities for others to step up.....Guys now have an opportunity to play a role and more minutes," said coach Peter Laviolette, whose team plays a key game in Ottawa Tuesday.

   Carter's injury figures to give Claude Giroux more ice time. Giroux has been mired in a deep slump _ two goals in his last 18 games _ and needs to produce if the Flyers are going to reach the post-season.

    Laviolette won't decide until Tuesday how his lines will look. He may move Giroux to Carter's center spot, between wingers Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell. There is also the chance he will shift Briere to center and put Ville Leino at wing on that line.

    With Carter sidelined, Leino figures to be added to the lineup.

    "There won't be any excuses," Laviolette. "We've got a good hockey team in here. Yes, we wish we had a healthy team, but it's a rare thing to have a team that is completely healthy. It's a physical sport, a demanding sport, and injuires happen. Life goes on and no one one feels sorry for us, and we can't feel sorry for ourselves."

     The Flyers, of course, have already lost goalies Ray Emery and Michael Leighton to injuries.