Getting Close to Healthy

“I felt pretty good,” Danny Briere said after skating on Tuesday. Briere has been out of the lineup since Oct. 27. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

For the first time in nearly 3 weeks, the Flyers had a full team – or as close as they are going to get with Simon Gagne out for at least another 6 weeks – at practice on Tuesday.

Here is a quick rundown of the latest injury updates:

-Danny Briere skated with the team again on Tuesday. On Monday, Briere skated with the Flyers for 25 minutes – a few minutes more than he was originally scheduled – and skated prior to that on his own with Flyers assistant coach Joe Mullen.

“I felt pretty good,” Briere said. “I was able to do all of the drills [on Tuesday]. It was just my first practice but I’m happy with how everything went.”

Unlike Monday, Briere was not wearing a yellow jersey on the ice to keep him separate from the other lines. He was back with his original line with Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk. Briere has been out of the lineup since Oct. 27 when he injured his right quad, right above the knee.

-Speaking of van Riemsdyk, he returned to practice for the first time since being hit with a Jeff Carter slap shot in the second period of Saturday’s game. The wicked slapper broke the tip of his left pinkie finger, luckily not hitting another finger that would’ve required him to be out for more time. But the shot did slice his pinkie open, requiring team doctors to close it with 20-plus stitches.

On Tuesday, van Riemsdyk said that playing with his pinkie bandaged up was a bit of an adjustment but the fact that he can’t injure it anymore is something that makes him a little more comfortable.

“Today was just an important day to get him on [the ice] and through a workout, handling the stick and all that,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “We’re optimistic he’ll be ready to go, as well.”

-Ryan Parent, like Briere, skated for a full practice for the first time since he left the game on Oct. 31 when he re-tweaked his groin. Parent said after practice that he felt normal. He appears to be close to returning on Thursday.

-Ole-Kristian Tollefsen returned to the ice on Tuesday for the first time since he left Saturday’s game against St. Louis with a mild concussion. Tollefsen said that he did not have any headaches for the second day in a row. His status for Thursday remains up in the air but the fact that he has a full practice is a good sign.

“I feel ready,” Tollefsen said. “I felt a little bit more normal [on Tuesday]. Obviously I want to play but that is the coach’s decision. If they ask me, I’m telling them I’m ready to go.”

While all four players are questionable for Thursday’s home game against Ottawa, in which Ray Emery will face his former team for the first time, Stevens said that while Tuesday was an important stepping stone, Wednesday will give him a bigger indication as to who is ready to return. He expects a few of those players to be sore after a tough practice on Tuesday.

“I think [Wednesday] will be a true test after they recover,” Stevens said. “They skated pretty hard [on Tuesday]. Danny looked good. Danny had good jump. Whether Tolly or Ryan will be ready to play, I don’t know.”

In case Parent or Tollefsen can’t go on Thursday, the Flyers called up defenseman Oskars Bartulis from Adirondack on Monday.

If Bartulis plays on Thursday it will be his NHL debut.

“It’s something that when you are a kid, you dream about,” Bartulis said on Monday. “Now that you are here, you need to use your chance.”

Bartulis, a Latvia native, worked his way up the Flyers’ depth chart in the offseason and parlayed a strong training camp into an early season call-up. Bartulis posted 2 goals and 2 assists and was even in the plus/minus category in 12 games with the Phantoms this season.

It is easy to watch Bartulis play and not notice him. He doesn’t have a big, physical style and he is not very involved offensively. But as a defenseman, not being noticed – with mistakes – is something that has caught the eye of the Flyers’ coaching staff.

“He’s one of those guys that you don’t notice him but he’s playing well,” Stevens said. “He’s a steady defender. It seems like he’s never in trouble and he quietly goes about his business. You take for granted some of the things he does well but those are the things that make him a good player.”

“I think we’re unsure about both Ryan and Tolly right now. I think using [Bartulis] is a little bit of a hedge in case either guy can’t play.”

Bartulis isn’t the only Flyer whose status is hanging in the balance over injuries. David Laliberte, who Stevens said would not steal a spot from Briere or van Riemsdyk if they are healthy, is in the same boat. Laliberte has played well, chipping in with 3 points in 4 games.

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