Figuring Out the Flyers: Depleted defense

Figuring Out the Flyers: Depleted defense
January 10, 2013, 8:08 pm
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Each day between now and the Flyers first game, Tim Panaccio and Sarah Baicker will take a stab at answering one big question facing the 2012-13 Philadelphia Flyers.

Up first: How will the Flyers compensate for injuries along the blue line?

Tim: This is the most dicey aspect of the Flyers' entire roster. There is no sugar-coating that their depth has been blown apart with starters Erik Gustafsson (foot) and Marc-Andre Bourdon (post-concussion syndrome) both injured and with top-three D-man Andrej Meszaros admitting hes not sure he is ready for game competition after rehabbing his right Achilles tendon the entire lockout. Suddenly, Bruno Gervais, who was signed as a free agent for depth purposes, will become a full-time starter in the No. 6 spot. If Meszaros cant go, it means Gervais and Andreas Lilja are your No. 5 and No. 6 D-men. No way this defense is anywhere as mobile, skilled or defensively sound as it was in October 2011 with Chris Pronger and Matt Carle. One of the reasons goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was so strong in March was because the Flyers' defense was performing well in front of him. Double-trouble ahead.

Sarah: Anyone who's followed Tim and me over the offseason knows we're both concerned about the state of the Flyers' defense. But maybe, in a weird way, the injury-weakened D might not be as bad as we sometimes make it out to be. Really bear with me for just a second. Back in Phoenix, Ilya Bryzgalov faced a lot more shots than he has so far here in Philly. In 2010-11 with the Coyotes, for instance, Bryz faced 2,125 shots. Last season with the Flyers? 1,554. With some goaltenders, facing extra pressure allows them to get in more of a rhythm, and perhaps this could be the case with Bryzgalov behind a Flyers defense corps thats maybe not blocking as many shots as it was last year. If not, the other sort of good news is: minor-leaguers the Flyers recalled last season on defense fit in seamlessly with the club (i.e. Brandon Manning). Theyre hopeful thats once again the case.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net or Sarah Baicker at sbaicker@comcastsportsnet.com