Flyers’ Lindros Injured, Exits Game
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Eric Lindros’ homecoming lasted eight minutes and 50 seconds _ and now his career could be in jeopardy.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ star was helped off the ice after he was elbowed in the head by New Jersey’s Scott Stevens in the first period of Friday night’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
New Jersey beat Philadelphia 2-1 to advance to the Stanley Cup finals, becoming the first team in NHL history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in a conference final.
Lindros, who missed 10 weeks due to post-concussion syndrome, was playing in his second game _ his first at home _ since rejoining the Flyers after the lengthy layoff.
He was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital and was expected to be held overnight. There was no immediate word on the extent of the injury or whether it was a concussion.
The NHL fined the Flyers $10,000, apparently for violating Stanley Cup playoff regulations by not releasing information on Lindros’ injury.
``It was sickening,″ said Flyers forward John LeClair, who helped Lindros off the ice. ``With everything he’s been through, it was tough to see. It’s a great concern. We all know his history.″
Lindros, 27, sustained three concussions this season and five in the last two years. His younger brother, Brett, retired from the NHL because of concussions.
Lindros’ career in Philadelphia could be over regardless of his latest injury. He will be a restricted free agent and, considering the bad blood between the Lindros family and team management, it’s possible he will leave.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Lindros was skating up ice with the puck and his head down when Stevens blindsided him with an elbow 7:50 into the first period. Just before the hit, Devils forward Jay Pandolfo impeded Lindros’ progress by placing his stick between Lindros’ legs.
Lindros appeared to bang his head on the ice, and was helped to the trainer’s room. No penalty was called, and Flyers interim coach Craig Ramsay as well as teammates said they thought it was a clean hit.
``Stevens is a big hitter,″ defenseman Dan McGillis said. ``You have to have your head up when he’s on the ice. It was right at the whistle, but I think it was pretty clean.″
Stevens was so upset by the result of the hit that New Jersey coach Larry Robinson had to speak to him between periods.
``I don’t like to see anybody get hurt,″ Stevens said. ``It was a little tough to play after that. It’s always on your mind.″
Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher said the team rallied around the injury. Still, it wasn’t enough to help the team earn its eighth trip to the Cup final.
``We’ve been through adversity,″ Boucher said. ``We still had a hockey game to play. It’s an unfortunate thing for (Lindros).″
LeClair pointed to the 4-1 loss in Game 5 as the turning point of the series.
``We came out flat in Game 5 and that was a big part of it,″ LeClair said.
Rick Tocchet’s goal tied the game 1-1 in the second period Friday night. But the Flyers, who played their best hockey in a week in that period, couldn’t carry the momentum into the third.
Patrik Elias’ second goal of the game with 2:32 to play ended the Flyers’ season.
``It’s not what you expect when you take a 3-1 lead,″ Flyers captain Eric Desjardins said.
In his first game back on Wednesday, Lindros scored the Flyers’ only goal in a 2-1 loss at New Jersey, which pulled the Devils even at three games apiece.
The former captain hoped to return home and lead the Flyers into the Stanley Cup finals, but his injury changed all that.
While Lindros was recovering, he also became the central figure in hockey’s most-publicized family feud.
Fans, once forced to choose between Lindros and general manager Bob Clarke, the franchise’s former hero, were solidly behind No. 88. They roared when his name was announced Friday and cheered each time he came on the ice.
``They can’t win the Stanley Cup without him,″ said 27-year-old Tom Pizzi, a diehard Flyers fan from South Philadelphia. ``Anybody who says they don’t need him is nuts.″
There was a time, however, when fans wondered whether Lindros would ever wear a Flyers uniform again.
He received his second concussion when he was checked by Boston’s Hall Gill on March 4 and later was stripped of his captaincy after criticizing the team’s medical staff for failing to diagnose the severity of his injury.
His photo was taken off promotional advertisements. He wasn’t included in the team’s highlight reels and the mere mention of his name left players, coaches and even the team’s broadcasters feeling uneasy.
To add further insult, the ``C″ was airbrushed from Lindros’ sweater in an action photo on the cover of the team’s postseason media guide.