Inside the Flyers: Lockout has allowed Flyers defensemen to heal

Andrej Meszaros is almost ready to play as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon.
Andrej Meszaros is almost ready to play as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon. (AP)
Posted: January 07, 2013

Unless both sides bypass a chance to salvage a 48-game NHL season - and nearly $2 billion in revenue - the almost-four-month lockout will finally end later this week.

The lockout has had countless negatives, but for the Flyers, there is a positive: Andrej Meszaros, one of their best defensemen, is almost ready to start playing.

And this: Veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who had back surgery in the summer, seems close to 100 percent.

Thanks, lockout.

In addition, the work stoppage has helped Andreas Lilja, a depth defenseman who will battle for a third-pairing spot, recover from hip surgery. Lilja has been cleared to play.

If the season had opened in October, the Flyers' blue line would have been a major question mark. Now it might be one of their strengths, with Nick Grossmann, Braydon Coburn, Meszaros, and Timonen forming a solid top four, and newly acquired Luke Schenn - who struggled with Toronto last season but still led NHL defensemen with 270 hits - anchoring the third pairing.

Meszaros, who underwent surgery in August to repair a torn right Achilles tendon, will have a checkup Monday and may find out if he can expect to start the season Jan. 19 - that is, if the labor battle ends.

"I'm feeling pretty good. It's still not where I want it to be, but I'm trying to be optimistic," Meszaros said after Friday's practice in Voorhees. "I want to make sure it's 100 percent because I don't want to come back too soon and then something happens."

Named the Barry Ashbee award winner as the Flyers' top defenseman in 2010-11, Meszaros began skating in early November and has made impressive strides. He is also recovering from back surgery, performed during last season.

Yes, the Flyers will miss having Chris Pronger - a club official said his concussion situation was "status quo," which is not good news - and to a lesser extent, Matt Carle (signed with Tampa Bay), but at least their injured defensemen are rounding into form.

Timonen, 37, is one of them. He has been part of the Lockout Gang that has skated regularly in Voorhees since September - the players are forced to rent the ice - and he admits it has been tedious at times.

"It's been up and down. Sometimes you get good news [on negotiations] and other days you wake up and it's bad news," he said.

As for his surgically repaired back, "I'm ready to play," said Timonen, an all-star last season. "It's been pretty good since the summer. I'm just waiting for the season to get started because it's been a long four months. If there's something good about this lockout, at least I've been able to get healthy and spend time with my family."

Timonen has made several trips to watch his 13-year-old son play in tournaments.

"It's been great. I have to be honest, there have been a lot of weekends I didn't miss hockey that much," he said. "We've been to Buffalo, Long Island, Canada a couple times. I probably saw my son play more [in the last few months] than in his whole life."

Flyers winger Jody Shelley, another regular at the Voorhees sessions, has been able to spend more time with his 2- and 4-year-old children during the work stoppage.

"Being Mr. Mom has been very eye-opening for me," he said, adding he has spent his weeks "trying to find a routine, whether it be a workout, take the kids to school, make breakfast, whatever."

That new routine should change by the NHL's Friday deadline, one that figures to spur concessions on both sides and end four months of labor acrimony.

Contact Sam Carchidi at Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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