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Flyers' Lupul cleared to play five days early

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers right wing
Joffrey Lupul, sidelined since Jan. 5 with a spinal cord contusion, has been cleared to play against the New York Rangers on Saturday, five
days earlier than expected.

Lupul, 24, suffered the injury in a collision with teammate Derian
Hatcher in Toronto.

Lupul passed an MRI exam last week, but he was told on
Monday to wait until Feb. 14 for precautionary reasons. Lupul
pressed the issue and finally was given the OK to resume play from
Dr. William Welch, neurosurgeon at Pennsylvania Hospital in
Philadelphia.

"Joffrey's been champing at the bit," general manager Paul
Holmgren said. "The doctors were cautious, but we asked, 'What's
the difference between now and three or four days from now?' "

Lupul, who has 16 goals and 35 points in 39 games, is expected
to play on a line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne.

Lupul said after Friday's practice that he was surprised.

"Everyone knew I wanted to play, felt well enough to play. If
you're well enough to play, you should be playing," Lupul said.
"I guess the doctor had a change of heart."

Coach John Stevens said he was glad to hear the news, especially
because Lupul can fill in for the recently injured Scottie Upshall,
who is out with a sprained ankle.

"He's a guy who plays in all situations," Stevens said.