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September 14, 2005 - Flyers work hard in return to ice

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Flyers work hard in return to ice
Returning from the lockout, they want to win the Stanley Cup.


Of The Morning Call

VOORHEES, N.J. | The Philadelphia Flyers were back together Tuesday for the first time since their Game-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals 479 days ago.

The team skated for an hour in front of several hundred fans at their practice facility, then competed in a split-squad scrimmage that head coach Ken Hitchcock called ''fast-paced.''

''The thing for the players was the tempo was so high today that you'd be hard-pressed to keep up with this tempo for four straight days, but we'll see,'' Hitchcock said.

The comment underscores the reality that, for some, Tuesday's practice marked their first hard-core hockey workout since the owners-imposed lockout that led to the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 NHL season.

Keith Primeau is among those who hadn't played a minute of organized hockey since the 2-1 loss to the Lightning back on May 22, 2004. That didn't stop the Flyers' captain from dominating the ice Tuesday, tipping in a goal, while maintaining a constant presence around the puck, though he admitted he's got to get in better shape.

''From a mental standpoint, I feel as good as I have in a long time,'' said Primeau, who only in the last few months has shaken the symptoms of a concussion suffered in February 2004. ''Physically, I'd still like to find another step or two on the ice. I feel strong, but I need to get my conditioning up another gear in order to be productive to where I need to be.''

More pressing for the Flyers is getting their two biggest free agent signees back on the ice. Neither Peter Forsberg nor Derian Hatcher, signed during the August free agent frenzy, practiced Tuesday.

Forsberg, who signed a two-year, $11.5-million deal, underwent a 15-minute procedure on Monday to remove a bursa sac from his right ankle. Rehabilitation will be minimal, according to strength and conditioning coach Jim McCrossin, and Hitchcock expects him to play at some point during the preseason.

Hatcher's injury appears more serious. He suffered a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last week while practicing at Team USA's Olympic camp. The injury didn't require surgery, but it will keep him out of the entire preseason.

Forsberg and Hatcher headline a major overhauling of a team that came within one win of the Stanley Cup Finals. Gone are Jeremy Roenick, John LeClair, Mark Recchi, Tony Amonte, Marcus Ragnarsson and Alexei Zhamnov, replaced by Mike Rathje, Turner Stevenson, Mike Knuble and former Phantoms Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, R. J. Umberger and Jon Sim.

Hitchcock plans to play a full roster in Saturday's preseason game against Atlanta in London, Ontario. By Sunday, he must pare the roster from 52 to 25.