Fatigued Flyers are grateful for the extra time

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:33 PM ET


 The Eastern Conference final drags on interminably, thanks to extended breaks to suit the American TV networks.

 But as far as the Philadelphia Flyers are concerned, that may be a godsend.

 The ravaged defence corps is, of necessity, being over-worked, and toward the end of Saturday's Game 4, mistakes born of fatigue were starting to materialize.

 Now, with an extra day off, there's a chance to recharge the batteries.

 That's especially good news for 35-year-old Vladimir Malakhov, who logged a remarkable 30 minutes in Philly's 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and played brilliantly, but all the other defencemen can use the rest as well.

 The Flyers started the game with a six-man corps, which included Sami Kapanen, a transplanted forward.

 But midway through the second period, Joni Pitkanen was slammed against the glass while being sandwiched between an elbow to the head from Dimitry Afanasenkov and a leaping charge from Tim Taylor.

 He staggered off and did not return.

 Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said he expects Pitkanen, a 20-year-old rookie who had been a healthy scratch in Games 2 and 3, to be back in the lineup for tomorrow's Game 5 in Tampa.

 But just in case, the Flyers have brought up some reinforcements from their farm team -- Dennis Seidenberg, John Slaney and Randy Jones.

 Of those three, Seidenberg would be the most likely to get the call. He cracked the roster at the start of the season, but in what seems to be the accepted course of action for Flyers defencemen, got injured. He suffered a broken leg and went to the minors while he recuperated.

 Hitchcock is taking the steady erosion of the defence corps in stride.

 "We've got lots more," he said with a grin.


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