Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Coburn, Akeson, VandeVelde, Pronger and More



* Braydon Coburn (lower-body injury) returned to practice yesterday, splitting reps with Nick Schultz on the top pairing with Andrew MacDonald. Although Coburn said he felt better than he expected, the veteran defenseman was not yet ready to say he’d be able to be in the lineup in Dallas on Saturday. The next two days will be more telling but, barring any setbacks, it seems like Coburn will play in the first game of three-game road trip.

* Prior to Saturday’s game, Flyers head coach Craig Berube indicated there was “a good chance” that general manager Ron Hextall would recall a forward from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the upcoming road trip. With Vincent Lecavalier out for approximately two weeks, the club was down to 12 forwards. Yesterday, the team called up forward Chris VandeVelde, who dressed in 18 NHL games last season. VandeVelde, a fourth liner in the NHL, scored two goals for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in their AHL regular season opener last Saturday.

* The Courier Post’s Dave Isaac has a feature article on Jason Akeson’s adjustment to skating on the fourth line for the Flyers after being primarily a player relied on for his offensive skills.

Berube was asked to assess Akeson’s performance to date. The coach gave a decidedly lukewarm review.

“He’s done some good things and also some things where he has to get out of his game because he’s in that [fourth-line] role,” Berube said. “He tends to turn the puck over in wrong areas and make some soft plays at times, but also he’s done some good things. He’s been gritty and taken the body at times and played a hard game, so he’s capable of doing it. It’s just the consistency level.”

The coach was not inclined to move Akeson up in the lineup, saying Akeson needs to finds his niche on the fourth line “and make it work.”

* Chris Pronger granted a media conference call yesterday to discuss his recent hiring by the NHL as a consultant to the Department of Player Safety. The former Norris Trophy winning defenseman, whose career ended abruptly during the 2011-12 season, said that he still has issues with his vision and headaches but is generally able to go about his life.

According to Pronger, the reason why is no longer scouting for the Flyers was that Hextall wanted to streamline the organization’s scouting staff and informed Pronger that his services were no longer needed in that capacity. Pronger also said that he only pursued the opportunity with the NHL when he was assured that it would not affect the Flyers’ salary cap issues by forcing him to officially file for retirement as a player.

* Flyers alum birthday: Thomas Eriksson, the first European player to dress in a regular season game for the Flyers, turns 55 today. The defenseman spent parts of five seasons in the NHL with the Flyers and was a productive regular during the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons. His best season was 1983-84, when Eriksson notched 11 goals, 44 points and a plus-28 rating in just 68 regular season games. After returning to Sweden, where he was a legend for the Djurgården team and a fixture on the national team, Eriksson went into law enforcement following his retirement as a hockey player.

* Today in Flyers’ History: On Oct. 16, 1977, Don “Big Bird” Saleski recorded a hat trick in a 7-0 pasting of the St. Louis Blues. On Oct. 16, 1998, John LeClair notched a hat trick in a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Also on this date, four different Flyers goaltenders have notched shutouts: Doug Favell (vs. Los Angeles in 1971), Wayne Stephenson (same 1977 game as Saleski’s hat trick), Jeff Hackett (2003 vs. San Jose) and Martin Biron (2007 vs. Atlanta). On Oct. 16, 2008, Simon Gagne scored on a penalty shot against Colorado’s Andrew Raycroft.

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