Injured Betts returns to Flyers

Posted: October 11, 2011

THE WAIT was agonizing. The news was sobering.

With his career hanging in the balance, Blair Betts knew the delay was not good.

Betts, 31, claimed on waivers by Montreal last Wednesday, was checked out by team doctors upon his arrival in Toronto for the Canadiens' season opener. He was not permitted to skate. He was only permitted to work out in the gym. He was then sent back to Montreal to wait, while doctors analyzed the results of his physical.

His emotions, meanwhile, ranged from excitement - to continue his career in one of hockey's meccas - to disappointment in a matter of hours. Betts was returned to the Flyers on Sunday by the NHL, after the Canadiens voided the waiver claim, saying he was physically unfit to play.

"It's been a roller coaster, mentally," Betts said yesterday. "I kind of had a funny feeling it wasn't going to work out there."

Now, it appears things aren't going to work out with the Flyers, either. Betts said he was informed he is no longer "part of the lineup" and will not be participating in team activities.

The Flyers are stuck. Suddenly, the player who won the fitness award in training camp can not pass a physical. With the rest of the league noticing his very public waiver denial, he is damaged goods.

It started when Betts took a puck off his left knee in the Flyers' final preseason game against New Jersey, which created a deep bone bruise that needed to be drained. Betts, a crafty veteran who excels on the penalty kill, on faceoffs and in the defensive zone, was fighting for one of the last spots on the Flyers' roster. But the injury made him a longshot.

"Blair is a tough player," general manager Paul Holmgren said yesterday. "I think he's had a lot of issues the last couple of years. He continued to play and I believe he stills wants to play. We'll find out in the next few days what we're dealing with."

Now, Betts would need to clear waivers to be loaned to Adirondack. But injured players cannot be placed on waivers unless they are cleared by a doctor.

His $700,000 salary counts against the Flyers' cap and his unexpected return prompted them to send Ian Laperriere to the long-term injured list prematurely. The Flyers were banking long-term cap space for each day they kept Laperriere off the list.

Betts' left knee has been a problem practically since he arrived in Philadelphia in 2009, but he has fought through the pain to try to keep his job. One of the Flyers' most respected players in the locker room, Betts did not complain about his injury. Fringe players don't have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines for extended periods of time. Knowing the roster numbers, he didn't miss a single practice during training camp.

Still, he wasn't surprised when Montreal's doctors discovered something in an MRI.

"I think it was just something that I've been dealing with for a long time," Betts said. "It's something that I've had to manage. But I think I've been doing as good a job managing it as I can.

"It's something that causes me grief every day. They felt it was too much of a liability."

Betts has battled two shoulder injuries, this knee injury, and a busted finger tip from blocking a shot, causing him to miss 27 games over his two seasons with the Flyers.

Holmgren said the Flyers will get Betts checked out beginning today to see "what the issues are, if there are any." Betts is not sure whether surgery is an option. Even if he does go under the knife, a resolution to his problem is not guaranteed.

"We're going to discuss that over the next couple of days and decide what's best for my career at this point," Betts said.

Nonetheless, Betts has remained upbeat. He is once again at a career crossroad. In 2009, he entered camp without a contract and made the team. But if this is the end, the 7-year veteran from Edmonton, Alberta, sounded happy to have carved out a big-league career this long.

"It's a little difficult to deal with . . . that feeling that I'm not part of the lineup, I'm not going to be playing," Betts said. "I'm back with my family. I'm back with an organization that has treated me really well the last 2 years of my career. Things could be a lot worse."

Slap shots

Defenseman Andrej Meszaros missed yesterday's practice with what the team is calling a "maintenance day." . . . Matt Walker said there is "something going on" but he would "not say much," about his status with the Flyers. He was told he would be playing in last Thursday's opener but was unexpectedly scratched. Walker said he was not sick, and is "completely healthy," but would not elaborate. Peter Laviolette said Walker was a coach's decisions in the Flyers' first two games.


For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

 

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