PHILADELPHIA -- It appears as though the Philadelphia Flyers have lost another key cog in their quest for the Stanley Cup.
Forward Ian Laperriere, who hasn't skated since taking a slap shot to the face in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, is likely lost for the remainder of the playoffs. Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren made that official via a conference call on Tuesday afternoon after speaking to Dr. Joseph Maroon, the chief neurosurgeon and Vice Chairman and Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"After hitting a couple different doctors (on Monday) and then (Dr. Maroon) on Tuesday, it's come to the understanding that Ian has a brain contusion, a mild concussion, and we're going to list him as being out indefinitely," Holmgren said. "I think they saw a little spot (on the CAT scan) initially and I think they were hoping, like we all were, that it would dissipate a little bit. But (Dr. Maroon) kind of validated what we were told (on Monday) and kind of erased the optimism we had. Right now, it's not safe for Ian to play."
The loss of Laperriere, one of Philadelphia's premier penalty-killers, comes on the heels of injuries to veteran forward Simon Gagne (three weeks) and top regular-season goal-scorer Jeff Carter (six weeks). Both players suffered right-foot fractures in Game 4 of their five-game series triumph over the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and required surgery.
Laperriere's injury occurred in the third period of Game 5. The Flyers were holding a three-goal lead and in the midst of killing off a Devils power play when Laperriere stepped in front of a slap shot by defenseman Paul Martin. By the time he realized he had slid too early, the puck slammed into his forehead at top speed, opening up his face to the point where a trail of blood followed him as he skated blindly on the ice before getting medical attention. He needed 60-70 stitches to close the gash.
His loss will resonate throughout the Flyers' locker room.
"Those are hard shoes to fill because of what he does," Holmgren said. "He's a leader in our locker room and knows what it takes this time of year. He's respected by everyone in our organization. You take a guy like that out of your lineup, it's a problem. We're going to have to rally around now and guys are going to have to step up big time."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had several call-ups at Tuesday's practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. Holmgren would expect one to hopefully fill the huge void Laperriere leaves.
"We tried some different guys in practice (on Tuesday) but it's hard to replace Ian, particularly on the penalty kill," Holmgren said. "He's a heart-and-soul guy on our hockey team, and it's hard to replace that. I would think that guys like (Darroll) Powe, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell will get more involved now and some of the guys who killed penalties in the minors like (Jonathon) Kalinski and (Andreas) Nodl are certainly guys we could use."
Spurred by the play of Laperriere and Blair Betts, Holmgren's team was among the top five in penalty-killing this postseason -- killing off 87.5 percent (28-of-32) of New Jersey's power plays in the first round. Laperriere, who was selected as this season's Yanick Dupre Class Guy Memorial Award winner by the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, was signed as a free agent by the Flyers last summer.
Holmgren admitted doctors will likely perform another CAT scan on Laperriere in four weeks.
"I think (the vision) cleared up (Tuesday); that wasn't a problem at all," Holmgren said. "It's a brain injury and we all need to take a step back here though.
"They'll come a time in four weeks where we'll give him another CAT scan and see what's going on," he continued. "At that time, maybe we can adjust (the timetable), but that's a long ways off. It's pretty safe to say he's out indefinitely the remainder of the season."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org