From head to toe, Peter Forsberg has been having trouble staying in the lineup to help the last-place Philadelphia Flyers.
He'll visit a neuro specialist this morning for baseline testing, hoping to get clearance to play tomorrow after suffering a slight concussion on Saturday. He and the Flyers' equipment staff also will fine-tune a new right skate boot that could cure a long-standing issue with his odd-shaped foot and the accompanying balance problems.
First to the headache that accompanied a spectacular hit by Washington's Alexander Ovechkin on Saturday, a violent meeting of the minds of the past and future aggressive European stars of the league. The open-ice hit knocked Forsberg's head into Dainius Zubrus, leaving his legs wobbly. He was taken out of the game as a precaution, having already missed time trying to come up with a better skate.
Forsberg had spent a few days at the Nike Bauer factory in Montreal last week after the renowned foot care facility at Temple University had taken x-rays of his foot inside a skate and given him a special bio-mechanical orthotic. For the time he did play on Saturday, Forsberg reported he could turn and hit with comfort, two requirements of the new model.
"We're definitely going in the right direction," Forsberg said. "We'll get it to work."
Mike Knuble of the Flyers isn't ready to throw in the towel, even though the team is now 15 points behind in its own division.
Knuble refuses to hear talk that this is a "transition year" for the team.
"Transition year is a way to sugar-coat 'losing year,' " he said.
"There's still a lot of hockey left. To write off the year at this point, I hope nobody in the room has done that. I don't expect it from our general manager, from our coaches and I don't expect it from the guys in this room. We still have two-thirds of the season left and you never know. Maybe somebody else will go down with a bunch of injuries."
THUMBS DOWN FOR TOMAS
When doctors performed surgery on Nashville Predators netminder Tomas Vokoun's torn thumb ligament, they also found a small fracture, which will keep the team's star on the shelf until at least early January.
Also shelved until sometime in the New Year is Todd Bertuzzi of the Florida Panthers, approaching three weeks into his rehab from back surgery.
But though he's skating again and trying to get his balance back, there is little chance he'll be ready to play his former Vancouver Canucks pals in a much-anticipated game against Roberto Luongo on Jan. 7.
The Atlanta Thrashers have stumbled to 0-3-2 in their past five games, but at least they aren't resorting to rough stuff, of which coach Bob Hartley often is accused.
The Atlanta-Washington game Friday was the teams' first meeting since Nov. 22, when 176 penalty minutes, 10 fighting majors, seven game misconducts and three player suspensions resulted. Preceded by talk of a second war on ice, the game passed without major incident.
"As business people, we have to look at our sport," Hartley said.
"Look at the Steve Moore incident in Vancouver (Hartley once coached him in Colorado). We should learn our lesson. There's a kid out of hockey, lawsuits everywhere, black marks all over our sport. We don't need this."
POTVIN'S WIFE INJURED
Panther broadcaster Denis Potvin's wife Valerie underwent 51/2 hours of surgery in Fort Lauderdale after a riding accident. She was thrown from a horse and initially lost sensation below her waist, but the feeling returned. Bone fragments had damaged her spinal cord, but unlike the accident that paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve, it didn't break.
She will remain in a body cast for four months and doctors expect her to regain full movement in six months.
WHERE IN THE WORLD ... ?
The 1974 exhibition between the Russians and the all-stars from the World Hockey Association isn't called 'The Lost Series' for kicks.
The WHA crew, which included Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull, lost the eight-game travelling circus to the Russians (1-4-3) and the original broadcast tapes were destroyed. However, a collector in Denver recently turned over tapes of seven of the eight games and a limited edition DVD of the series was created. It retails for $79.98 and will be in stores tomorrow.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
If the Russians don't agree to the transfer agreement worked out between the NHL and other European nations, it's possible the league will prevent any Russian players from playing in the 2007 world championship ... Not only is Jarome Iginla on fire again for the Calgary Flames, but their second line of Kristian Huselius, Matthew Lombardi and Chuck Kobasew has 13 goals in 14 games.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The NHL holiday trade freeze begins at midnight tomorrow, preventing any player movement except for callups through midnight Dec. 27 ... The Leafs play in Chicago on Friday for the first time since Feb. 12, 2003 ... The vote to award a slots license in Pittsburgh, crucial to the survival of the Penguins, will be held Wednesday.