Flyers' Downie remains on sideline

Posted: April 04, 2014

DRENCHED IN sweat, Steve Downie sat in his stall inside the Flyers' empty locker room in St. Louis on Tuesday morning - just staring off into the distance.

He had just gone through a grueling pregame skate routine - reserved for the Flyers' scratches - with assistant coach Ian Laperriere, Hal Gill and Steve Mason, and he was exhausted.

Yet, he didn't hustle to get his equipment off to get back to the team hotel for lunch. He sat there in all his equipment.

Something just didn't look right.

Yesterday, 2 days and another game later, Downie was not back in Craig Berube's lineup. Downie insists that he is healthy. He mentioned on Monday that he has cleared all of the baseline concussion tests and was cleared for contact by doctors.

Downie, 27, took a nasty hit 45 seconds into the Flyers' game on March 22 and hasn't played since.

"I'm healthy," Downie said Monday. "I'm cleared, I passed all of the tests. I took a pretty weird shot there to the neck - it was an awkward position."

He was hopeful for a quick return.

"You sit out that many days, it takes a couple days to get back," Downie said then.

Instead, Berube and the Flyers have opted for the long view. Phantoms callup Tye McGinn remained in Berube's lineup, skating with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.

"I think he's close," Berube said. "It's just, he's not ready, though. I don't know."

It has been an injury-riddled haul for Downie this season, practically since he arrived in Philadelphia via a Halloween trade with Colorado for Max Talbot.

In his first game, that Nov. 1 circus against Washington, Downie fought Aaron Volpatti and left with a concussion so severe that he needed to be carted from the Wells Fargo Center via stretcher to Pennsylvania Hospital because team doctors "didn't like the way he reacted." He was back in the lineup 11 days later.

About month later, Downie suffered another injury, though the Flyers never revealed the ailment. Many wondered whether Downie returned to the lineup too soon - or if he suffered a second, dangerous blow to the head.

And then, when Downie returned to action another 10 days later on the West Coast, he never really regained his form. He played so poorly for a stretch in January that Berube made him a "healthy" scratch on Jan. 12 and Jan. 14 in New York and at Buffalo.

He also missed a game in March in Toronto because he was too ill to play.

It is entirely possible Downie never healed from the original injury. Berube was asked yesterday how much of a role injuries have played in derailing Downie's season. He has scored just three goals in 49 games with the Flyers, a tough run for a 20-goal scorer in 2009-10 with Tampa Bay.

"At times, they have, I think [played a role]," Berube said. "But when he's been healthy and feeling good, he's played well. I think he's like any other player - when you're not feeling well, it's hard to play good. But he's got to battle through it."

He just doesn't seem himself. Once a wrecking ball on the ice, Downie hasn't won many puck battles when he has played. Little things, like passing, have been difficult. It has really been a strange year - which has been disappointing for the Flyers after moving a valuable piece in Talbot.

Downie's season is at a crossroads, in a contract year, no less. You have to begin to wonder, now, whether Berube will make a spot in his lineup for Downie when he rebounds. Berube said yesterday he is "fine with" McGinn playing in the playoffs, if need be. Downie has been a solid playoff performer - 14 points in 17 games for the Lightning in 2010-11 - when he's been involved and motivated.

"We'll see how things change at that time," Berube said. "There's always decisions that you've got to make with your lineup. He's going to be a part of it."

Timonen back

With a set of stitches in his chin, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen returned to the lineup last night after missing Tuesday's shootout loss in St. Louis. Timonen, 39, probably could have played against the Blues, but used the extra 2 days for his face to heal after taking a puck in the chin against Boston on Sunday.

Really, it was also a chance for Timonen to rest before the Flyers' playoff run. Timonen, who is a candidate for his fifth Barry Ashbee Trophy as the team's top blue-liner, will need to be at his best in the postseason. The Flyers are 2-1-1 without Timonen this season.

Timonen has played more than 1,475 minutes this season - well below the customary 1,800 minutes he's averaged per season in his career with the Flyers.

"We miss him when he's out of the lineup," Berube said. "He's a very big player for us - he does a lot of things well. He's been around a long time; the players really look up to him."

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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