Coach John Stevens and GM Paul Holmgren have some decisions to make—very important ones, to say the least.
These decisions could affect the rest of the season as far as the Flyers are concerned.
The most talked about and most intriguing is what the team is going to do with Luca Sbisa once Ryan Parent and Randy Jones come back from their injuries. Will Parent be sent down to the team's AHL affiliate? Rumors are also swirling that Randy Jones might be a subject of a trade.
Sbisa has impressed the club so much that Parent, who is due back after Christmas, could be the guy who gets sent down, because he has a two-way contract.
Randy Jones is not due back until mid-December and is due to make $2.7 million. The Flyers are currently about $450,000 under the cap, but that number could jump to $1.3 million if Kukkonen is sent down to the Phantoms. Obviously, that's not nearly enough room to add Jones, who has been sidelined after hip surgery.
"It's like an eternity to think that far ahead. So many things can change in a day to even think about that right now," coach John Stevens said. "Until a guy's a healthy player, we won't have a (numbers) concern. But to have too many good players is a good thing."
Stevens is correct, because ultimately it's not his job to worry about the financial numbers. It's his job to put the players out there on the ice that will give his club the best chance to win hockey games.
Back to Sbisa. At one point, he was part of the second defensive pairing. After the addition of Matt Carle from the Lightning, Sbisa is now on the third pairing with Andrew Alberts.
"He's a big part of our lineup right now, and I don't see that changing anytime soon," Stevens said of Sbisa.
An interesting note about Sbisa is that he cannot be sent down to the Phantoms, due to the fact that AHL players must be at least 20 years old. Some major decisions are up-and-coming for the GM Paul Holmgren, who is well aware of the situation.
Although they've lost their last two games—one in overtime, to Carolina—the Flyers went an impressive 4-1-1 while playing six games in nine nights. The Flyers resume their schedule tomorrow night at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7 PM at the Wachovia Center.
Last week, the Lightning called up former Flyers understar Steve Downie, who now can barely make the Tampa Bay lineup. The Lightning beat the Flyers 2-1 at the Wach on November 8.
Danny Briere and Riley Cote will practice today, and could return to the lineup tomorrow. If they do return, Jon Kalinski and Josh Gratton will probably be sent back to the Phantoms—which is not so bad. Both played okay while up with the big club.
In their last 11 games, the Flyers killed 54 of 57 penalties. Stevens said assistant coach Craig Berube's scouting report on opponents was one of the reasons for the team's shorthanded success.
The Flyers are 6-3-3 on the road and 5-4-2 at home. They are 7-1-2 when leading after the first period.
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