Desjardins reinjures arm playing with son

Updated: April 21, 2004, 2:43 PM ET
Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers defenseman Eric Desjardins will miss the NHL playoffs after a metal plate protecting his injured right arm broke while he was playing catch with his son.

Clement: No finals for Philly
The Philadelphia Flyers are not nearly as good a team without Eric Desjardins as they are with him, and his injury likely ends their chances of making the Stanley Cup finals.

Desjardins is Philadelphia's best defenseman and is a picture of stability in all situations. He is on the ice in crunch time whether the Flyers are up a goal or down a goal and is one of the MVPs of the team. Desjardins is also extremely important because he is the only righthanded shot among the Flyers' defensemen, which keeps them out of jams at times because of his ability to move the puck. He is very underrated, does everything asked of him and often does it at the biggest moments, so Philadelphia is going to be hurting with out him.

Joni Pitkanen will replace Desjardins in the lineup but is nowhere near the same player. Pitkanen can skate like Desjardins, but it is unfair to thinks a rookie can step in an take the place of a solid veteran. Pitkanen will bring some offense to the table, but defense is the most important facet of the game in the postseason and he is merely a shadow of the player Desjardins is in that regard.
-- ESPN's Bill Clement

Desjardins returned to Philadelphia's lineup for the final three games of the regular season after breaking his right forearm Jan. 17. A plate was inserted into his arm to strengthen it while the bone healed.

Flyers general manager Bob Clarke and the surgeon who performed the initial operation insisted Desjardins didn't return from the injury too soon.

"If he would've waited another two or three weeks, it really wouldn't have made any difference," Dr. John Taras said. "It wouldn't have been a stronger bone that wouldn't have fractured. It was weakened prior to playing catch with his son."

Desjardins said he felt a different type of pain in his arm after taking a shot at the end of Tuesday's practice. Once he returned home from playing catch with his son, he realized something was wrong.

"I could feel the bone was moving. I asked my wife to touch it, and she didn't want to look at it," Desjardins said. "I'm very disappointed. I didn't want to believe it at first."

Desjardins broke the same bone he injured three months ago. He'll have surgery Friday that will include a bone graft from another part of his arm.

The Atlantic Division champion Flyers open a best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal against defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey on Thursday night. Rookie defenseman Joni Pitkanen will take Desjardins' place in the lineup.

"Obviously we don't want to lose a player of Desjardins' stature, but someone will have to step up," Clarke said.

Philadelphia's defense has been depleted by injuries this season. Vladimir Malakhov just returned after breaking his jaw, while Dennis Seidenberg still is recovering from a leg injury.

"It's been that type of year. We were healthy for one day," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Desjardins originally was supposed to miss eight weeks, but his bone didn't heal as quickly as expected. He was hurt in a collision with teammate Jeremy Roenick during a game against Toronto.

Desjardins came to the Flyers in a trade with Montreal during the 1994-95 season. He has 132 goals and 419 assists in 16 NHL seasons, including one goal and 11 assists in 48 games this season.

"Where he's going to be missed is as a calming influence on off days. He was a bonus. He was a guy we already learned to survive without," Hitchcock said. "Now it's even. They have [Scott] Stevens out and we have Desjardins out. Both are elite players. We lost our advantage."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press