The topic comes up around this time every year.

Normally, Bob Clarke doesn't have much of an opinion on the next class to join him in the hallowed Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

It may surprise you, though, who Clarke is endorsing for next year's class. Clarke is emphatic that Eric Lindros, the player who undoubtedly caused him the most hardship during his 19-year managerial career with the Flyers, should be inducted in his first year of eligibility.

Lindros retired from the NHL in November 2007 after a 49-game stint with the Dallas Stars, making him eligible for voting by the 18-man committee in Toronto for the Class of 2010.

"I believe that Lindros should be in the Hall of Fame," Clarke said last week in a sit-down with the Daily News. "There are no actual definitions that get you in, so that is something the Hall of Fame committee will have to decide.

"For me, he won the [Hart Trophy] MVP award and the Lester Pearson award, which is the most valuable player award voted by the players. If he is good enough to win that, then I think he is good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. He really was the most dominant player in the league for a time."

It is hard to argue with Big E's stats. He netted 865 points in 760 games, which comes out to 1.14 points per game, playing a run-you-over style that made him so popular in Philadelphia. Lindros' 115 points in 73 games in 1995-96 were a personal best.

You don't need to look far, though, to find his detractors.

We all know about his off-the-ice history, which began when he refused to play for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds when they drafted him in junior hockey. That continued in 1991 when he refused to wear the Quebec Nordiques' jersey on draft day when they selected him as the No. 1 overall pick.

That circus continued in Philly. Headlined by his parent-managers Carl and Bonnie, Lindros and Clarke traded jabs through the media. Lindros' parents often called Clarke to complain about who Eric, the team captain, was skating with and about the staff and doctors taking care of him. They once said that Clarke tried to kill their son by attempting to send him home on a plane with an undiagnosed collapsed lung.

Lindros ultimately rejected the Flyers' qualifying offer in the summer of 2000 and opted to sit out the entire 2000-01 season. Lindros' last moment in a Flyers uniform saw him getting tattooed by New Jersey's Scott Stevens during the 2000 Eastern Conference final.

"With him, it was one mess after the other," Clarke said. "I didn't agree with him or his parents about what they said about the organization and some of the people who work here."

Injuries are another thing that may prevent Lindros from becoming a Hall of Famer. Of the seasons that Lindros had a professional contract, he missed 269 games due to injury. Clarke admitted that Lindros was never the same player after he left the Flyers; Lindros scored 206 points in 274 games with the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Stars. He finished his playing career with eight reported concussions.

Clarke isn't sure whether the injuries or Lindros' off-ice antics will hurt his chances. But he doesn't think either should.

"If he didn't get in, I'd be surprised," Clarke said. "The men who vote on that would probably be looking at the huge distraction his parents caused for so long. The people who vote on that take that stuff into consideration.

"Based on my opinion, he is a first-ballot guy."

When Clarke traded him to New York just 3 weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Clarke was quoted as saying, "I don't give a crap if I ever saw him again." Lindros and Clarke have not spoken since.

Still, Clarke is able to put the past aside and look at Lindros' playing career in an unbiased light.

"I haven't talked to him," Clarke said. "That's fine with me. I dislike him for what he did to our organization and what his parents did to our organization.

"Even with my dislike of Lindros, I still think he should be in the Hall of Fame. You are supposed to be judged on how you play the game, not who likes you."

Schultz honored

Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, who won two Stanley Cups with Clarke, will be the 20th member inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame with a pregame ceremony tonight.

"It makes me feel unbelievable," Schultz said Saturday night. "I don't think I can grasp it all yet. I mean I have, to a certain extent, that I will forever be in the Flyers organization. It is very special."

Fans are encouraged to be in their seats at 6:45 p.m., when a video montage will attempt to capture Schultz' toughness with a few of his on-ice fights. Schultz will then address the crowd with a brief speech.

Slap shots

Rookie forward James van Riemsdyk missed Saturday's game with the flu. He could be ready to play tonight, which would make him healthy enough to fly with the team to Los Angeles right after the game.

ON ICE

BY THE NUMBERS

-- 3.56: Number of goals per game for the Flyers this year, putting them in third place behind Washington and Atlanta among the league's most lethal teams.

-- 9: Number of points for Chris Pronger during his current six-game point streak. He has seven assists and two goals after scoring against Buffalo on Saturday.

-- Plus-17: Matt Carle's league-best plus/minus ratio. Pronger is second behind him as a plus-13.

-- 400: Number of points for Kimmo Timonen during his 11-year NHL career. He netted his 400th with an assist on Saturday night.

THE WEEK AHEAD

vs. New Jersey

Tonight, 7 o'clock

Hall of Fame nights always make for memorable games. Tonight, against the quiet Atlantic Division-leading Devils, will be no different as New Jersey aims to match the NHL record for most road wins to start a season. The Devils are 9-0-0 on the road and victors in eight straight overall. Martin Brodeur has been his usual stingy self after a rocky start to the season; he is fifth in the NHL with a 2.16 GAA.

at Los Angeles

Wednesday, 10:30 p.m.

There is no doubt that the Flyers will be tired on Wednesday night when they faceoff against the Kings at the Staples Center. They will jump on a charter flight as soon as tonight's game wraps up at the Wachovia Center and fly all night to try and avoid being jetlagged on the West Coast. Terry Murray's surprising 12-7-2 squad, which is 5-2-1 at home, is wrapping up its own five-game East Coast trip tonight in South Florida. The Kings are led by NHL-leading scorer Anze Kopitar, who has posted 31 points so far. It will be Randy Jones' first game against his former team.

at San Jose

Friday, 10 o'clock

The Flyers will look to avenge their 4-1 loss to San Jose in October on Friday night in the Bay area. The Sharks lead the fun-to-watch Pacific Division with the Kings nipping at their fins. San Jose defends its home turf well; it is 8-0-2 there this season. Last year, the Flyers were bit in the Shark Tank, 5-4, in overtime. Overall, they are 5-3-3 at HP Pavilion since it opened in 1993. The Sharks are led by a quadruplet of 20-point scorers in Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau (23 each), Dany Heatley (22) and Dan Boyle (20).

at Phoenix

Saturday, 8 o'clock

Scottie Upshall will be another familiar face for the Flyers on this road trip, besides Randy Jones, Ron Hextall and Terry Murray in Los Angeles. Upshall also will play his former team for the first time on Saturday since being traded at the deadline last March. He has six goals this season for the Coyotes. We can't guarantee an Upshall goal, but we can guarantee not many will be there to watch: The bankrupt Coyotes have averaged 9,759 fans over 10 home games.