VOORHEES, N.J. -- No matter how you dissect the Flyers going into a lockout-shortened season, their defense remains questionable.
The concern level went up several notches when Andrej Meszaros, who was cleared for full activity after seeing a doctor Monday, admitted that he still may not be ready for games.
Meszaros is recovering from a torn right Achilles tendon suffered last summer, and subsequent surgery.
Could he play right now?
I dont know, Meszaros said after a player scrimmage Monday. Its tough to say. I really didnt have a full practice with everything. Or a scrimmage.
The speed of the game its a great tempo but its not I have to try it. Once we start practicing with the whole team and do scrimmages, then I can actually say whether I can. I cant really tell right now.
The Flyers re-tooled their blue by adding Luke Schenn and Bruno Gervais after losing Matt Carle to free agency. Chris Pronger (post-concussion syndrome) will again be on long-term injured reserve.
Neither Schenn nor Gervais are even-up replacements for Carle and Pronger.
And if Meszaros cant go, there is little defensive depth because Eric Gustafsson has a bone bruise in his right foot and Marc-Andre Bourdon is concussed.
Additionally, Brandon Manning has not looked great with the Phantoms.
Meszaros' health is pivotal to the blue line if the Flyers are going to have any success defensively this season, especially given the lack of quality replacements.
Although general manager Paul Holmgren said he expected his defenseman to be cleared, he admits there is some concern about his readiness for competition.
Its just a trust issue, Holmgren said. Im assuming, again, the doctor says he is good to go. Then it just has to come from Andrej practicing and doing things he can do.
Holmgren recalled that it took Meszaros a while to overcome his mental apprehension last spring when he missed the final 19 games of the regular season following herniated disk surgery in his back.
The 27-year-old didnt return to the lineup until the Game 5 elimination playoff against New Jersey.
We all thought he was ready to go earlier than when he got back in there, and when Claude Giroux couldnt play the last game because of a suspension, Andrej wanted to get in there and he was one of our better players, Holmgren said.
He got over the hump by playing the game.
Talking to Meszaros, it doesnt seem like this is about mental issues, but physical ones, in terms of performing.
On the ice, I can do everything, but sometimes it is tough depending what I am doing like twist and turns and stop and starts, Meszaros said.
Sometimes, I am really sore and I cant push off. Im still weak in my heel. Its a matter of time before I get my strength back.
I feel good. Its progressing and Im optimistic. I just have to wait and see what the doctor says and what he thinks. Whether he clears me or not, I still have to work on the heel. Every day.
That is not going to change through the whole course of the season. Treatments every day. Take care of it. Even if I am going to start playing at some point, the recovery is going to take a while to get it really where I want it to be.
Training camp is expected to open this weekend.
If Meszaros does start the season, coach Peter Laviolette may have to limit his ice time and allow him to build up his minutes again. He averaged nearly 21 minutes in 2011-12.
I want to make sure I am 100 percent before I play again, Meszaros said. I dont want it where Im not quick enough or strong enough and then I get beat.
Thats not going to be good for the team or my teammates. I want to make sure when I am back, I can benefit and help the team and not hurt the team.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com
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