Laperriere could return sooner than expected

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers forward Ian Laperriere was all smiles Monday morning at the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, N.J.

The veteran forward, named the NHL's toughest player by The Hockey News, underwent an MRI in the morning and was given the green light by doctors to resume skating with contact.

It's the first step in Laperriere's comeback, which it appears might happen sooner rather than later.

"When the doctors say it's 100 percent and if it's this year and coach (Peter) Laviolette feels that he needs me in the lineup right now, we'll see," Laperriere said. "The team's playing great right now. I don't want to be in there, those guys are playing unbelievable. But if I'm 100 percent and the team needs me … that's why I'm doing what I'm doing right now."

Laperriere was diagnosed with a brain contusion April 23, one night after he blocked a shot with his face during Game 5 of the Flyers' first-round series against the New Jersey Devils.

It was thought then that Laperriere would miss the remainder of the playoffs. Instead, he's back on the ice, now wearing a clear-plastic shield and a cage. But at least he no longer sticks out like a sore thumb, like he did during Sunday's practice when he wore a yellow jersey that signifies no physical contact. On Monday, he wore his regular orange practice sweater, the same as everyone else.

"I won't be in the best shape as everyone else in here, but I'll try to be in the best shape I can if my number is ever called," Laperriere said.

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren told the media following Monday's practice that Laperriere was cleared earlier in the day.

"Ian was cleared for contact but it's a situation where he wasn't able to do a whole lot," he said. "The first day he skated on his own was last Thursday and (Monday) he took part in practice with his teammates. I think he's possible at some point in this series."

The Flyers lead the Montreal Canadiens, 1-0, in the Eastern Conference Finals. The series resumes Tuesday here at the Wachovia Center (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

When asked if the insertion of Laperriere would mess with the current positive karma circulating throughout the lineup, Holmgren paused.

"No … we'll jump off that bridge when we get to it," he said.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale