Flyers play on without Lindros - again

The Philadelphia Flyers should be used to getting along without Eric Lindros by now.

Lindros, sitting out his second week due to lingering effects from a migraine headache, is living up to expectations by spending as much time off the ice as he does on it. The Flyers are right in the thick of the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference and their leader, as usual, is out with some sort of injury.

Now it seems that the Flyers will have to make due without Lindros for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs due to what is being diagnosed as a grade-two concussion, the fourth concussion of his career.

Lindros has never played a full season during his eight-year career and will end this regular season playing only 55 games.

Speculation that he might retire arises every time Lindros gets hurt. In the mid '90s, Lindros' brother Bret had to retire for recurring concussions.

It has gotten to the point that the Flyers, who seemingly are always at the top of the conference, are satisfied with early exits in the playoffs. Once again the Flyers have the perfect excuse to lose in the playoffs, since they will be playing without their leader.

This team is good enough to win the Stanley Cup, but not without Lindros. If Lindros doesn't come back for the second round, the Flyers are as good as gone and will have to sit through another summer wondering what went wrong.

Jon LeClair and Eric Desjardins must prove their worth and play like the leaders that they are supposed to be. They have relied on Lindros too much in the past to do it all.

It's time for the Flyers to put up or shut up. If this team does not win the Stanley Cup this year, look for changes throughout the organization, starting possibly with Lindros. GM Bobby Clark seems sincere when he says that he is committed to keeping Lindros wearing the orange and black, but without Lindros providing any results, you couldn't blame the guy for getting rid of him.

However, Lindros said his doctors knew about his condition but thought that he was well enough to play.

The Flyers have exited the playoffs in the first round each of the past two seasons. Not by coincidence, Lindros was injured and didn't play either year. The only time that Lindros was healthy was in 1997, when he led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals.

Stay tuned to see if Lindros has played his last game in Philadelphia.

Fortunately for the Flyers, rookies Simon Gagne and Brian Boucher are paying dividends. Gagne, 20, has played great as a second- and third-line player while providing punishing defense. Gagne has 43 points through 72 games, and although he isn't very big (6-0, 165 lbs.), he has been able to provide his team with a much-needed offensive spark when Lindros has been out.

During the playoffs, Gagne will need to continue his spirited play if the Flyers plan on making some noise.

Goalie Brian Boucher has given teammate John Vanbiesbrouck a tall glass of shut up juice. Boucher's three shutouts equal Vanbiesbrouck's total in only 27 games (Vanbiesbrouck has played in 46), and the rookie has a minuscule 2.04 goals against average.

The playoffs are going to create quite a stir in Philly, as Boucher has outplayed Vanbiesbrouck all year long and has earned the right to be the Flyers' playoff goalie.

Vanbiesbrouck won't be in Philadelphia next year. Bet your last cheese steak on it.

-- Now I have to comment on this Scott Niedermayer fiasco.

Are you telling me that what Marty McSorley did to Donald Brashear was worse than what happened to Florida Panther Peter Worrell?

Sure, and the Devils are going to win the Stanley Cup.

Niedermayer swung twice and struck Worrell on the helmet, but because Niedermayer is a first-time offender, he gets preferential treatment.

Who cares if he hasn't been in trouble with the league before? His intent was worse than McSorley's, plus he swung twice at his opponent. The league is attempting to crack down on irresponsible use of the stick by suspending Niedermayer 10 games.

Big deal.

The Devils already have the Atlantic Division locked up, barring one of their playoff-type collapses. Niedermayer will miss the first game of the playoffs and that's it.

Way to go, Colin Campbell. I wish I could get a vacation like that.

-- Speaking of New Jersey, what did Robbie Ftorek have to do to keep his job? The second-year coach of the Atlantic leading Devils was fired yesterday because GM Lou Lamoriello didn't like the direction the team was headed.

Mired in a slump, where they have lost 10 out of their last 16 games, the Devils looked to be playing out the season. Now, they will do so under new coach Larry Robinson.

Robinson, a six-time Stanley Cup winner with the Montreal Canadians in the 1970's, came over from L.A. after being fired by the Kings last season.

Do you think new owner George Steinbrenner had anything to do with this?

-- If you missed Sunday's game on ABC, then you missed one of the best games all season long.

The Colorado Avalanche hosted the Detroit Red Wings in a possible precursor to the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. This game had everything, from a surprise start for reserve Detroit goalie Ken Wreggett, to a successful penalty shot by Colorado's Chris Drury.

The Red Wings led the game three different times before finally disposing of Colorado 4-3 on, what else, a shorthanded goal. The game was a playoff-type game, pitting two teams that hate each other intensely.

This Saturday, the Avalanche play on the road against Dallas (10 a.m. on ABC), which should give fans an idea how these two teams look heading into the playoffs.

-- There are less than ten games left in the regular season, and every day when you pick up the Appeal there are changes in the standings. Look for spots 5-8 to go down to the wire in both conferences.

Trevor Smith is the Nevada Appeal hockey columnist.


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