Flyers defensemen Timonen, Coburn may be healthy enough for Game 5 return

Updated: May 18, 2008, 11:21 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- If the Philadelphia Flyers are going to go down, they're going to do it giving it their best shot.

Barring setbacks, the Flyers will have at least one and maybe both of their top defensemen, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, in the lineup for the first time in the series.

Timonen, out with a blood clot for the entire series, said Saturday he expects to play Sunday afternoon in another must-win game for the Flyers, who trail Pittsburgh 3-1 in this Eastern Conference final.

Timonen, an all-star and the Flyers' best puck-moving defenseman, has been cleared by doctors to play and said it's a matter of managing the pain.

"I think I'm ready to go," Timonen said Saturday before the Flyers left for Pittsburgh for Sunday's game. "Now it's up to coaches. I haven't talked to John yet. But personally I'm ready to go tomorrow."

Although the Flyers' history is dotted with players who have ended up exacerbating existing injuries by coming back too early including Eric Lindros, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Primeau and, earlier this year, Simon Gagne, Timonen is confident won't put himself at risk by playing.

"I got to trust the doctor's opinion that there's no risk at all if I play tomorrow," he said. "The symptoms they won't be gone tomorrow, they're going to be the same, but it felt pretty good today in practice. That's why I'm pretty confident to say I'm ready to go tomorrow."

Flyers coach John Stevens was confident Timonen would be in the lineup.

"Kimmo looks like he's going to be ready to go," Stevens said. "Kimmo looked great. So looks like we'll get one for sure."

Coburn, meanwhile, left early in Game 2 after taking a Hal Gill shot to the face. His availability for Sunday is less certain.

"I'm still not sure," Stevens said. "I think that's something that will probably be a decision, that if not made today, it is something we'll make in the morning. He had a full practice, looked good. Step in the right direction.

"He's still trying to get back on the ice and see how he sees through his eye with the injury he's had, and make sure he feels 100 percent. So, make sure of his health, he's a healthy player. And if he is, we're glad to have him back. If he's not, we're not going to put him in harm's way, either."

Should both return to the ice it should provide both an emotional lift to the Flyers, not to mention improving their ability to move the puck out of their own end and beefing up the power play.

When the Penguins have been successful, as they were in the first three games of the series, they intercepted errant Flyers' passes and pressured the overmatched Flyers' defense into numerous turnovers in their own zone and through the neutral zone.

The Flyers will be trying to replicate their emotional start to Game 4, when they scored three times in the opening period en route to a 4-2 victory that kept them alive in the playoffs. They will also be trying to forget their near-collapse late in the game, when the Penguins scored twice in the third period to keep the game close.

The Penguins are also 7-0 on home-ice in these playoffs.

"We focus on our team, how we're supposed to play," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "Timonen, obviously, he's a good defenseman for them. But when we played Ottawa we had a similar thing. They got Alfredsson back in the lineup and it brings some energy.

"But it's demanding for players. Especially when you're missing so long, you lose your game shape. This is playoff hockey and a playoff game. They're demanding."

Two Penguins, Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora, did not skate Saturday because they had a touch of the flu. Therrien said he hopes both will play.

"They should be ready for tomorrow," he said. "They should be there."

The Penguins might have veteran forward Gary Roberts back in the lineup. Roberts skated Saturday after missing the last two games with a mild case of pneumonia.

"He felt pretty good, we'll see tomorrow," Therrien said.

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.