Monday, December 3, 2012

Lilja returns to Glens Falls 12/3

The Adirondack Phantoms returned to practice this morning and a new face was on the ice with them.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andreas Lilja is in Glens Falls through Wednesday as he continues rehabilitating from offseason hip surgery. The team in August announced he was expected back in late October or early November, but Lilja said his rehab from the surgery was on schedule.

"It's progressing really good, actually," the 37-year-old Swede said after the team wrapped up practice at Glens Falls Civic Center. "I feel good and I feel like I'm kind of ready to play. They wanted me to come down and try a couple practices and see how I feel."

Lilja is in a bit of an interesting spot as far as the NHL lockout is concerned. Because of his hip injury, he could not technically be locked out. Injured players are entitled to their full NHL salaries until they're cleared to play by the team's medical staff. And the NHL has cancelled games through Dec. 14 as a result of the lockout, so it's not like Lilja wound up missing any significant game action.

"For me, personally, it's good, but it's not good for anybody," he said of the lockout. "I still want to have the season going. It's more fun to be around and practice when the guys are playing if you're hurt. I'd rather have the season going."

When Lilja gets cleared -- and he doesn't anticipate that being a problem -- he'll have some decisions to make. The last time the NHL locked out its players, 2004-05, the defenseman signed with Mora IK in his native Sweden. Would he consider heading overseas again if the NHL cancels this campaign?

"Not yet, no," Lilja said. "We'll see what happens. I'm still keeping my hopes up. I think we're going to have a season. It's just a matter of when it starts. That's what I'm worried about."

Lilja appeared in one game for the Phantoms last year on a conditioning assignment while rehabbing an ankle injury, but Phantoms coach Terry Murray said Lilja is here to practice and "he'll never play" for Adirondack this season. It's sort of like the situation involving rookie Matt Konan, who was here to practice while recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery before he was assigned to Trenton.

Lilja, though, said young Phantoms regulars like Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, his teammates in Philadelphia last season, may have a leg up if the NHL winds up playing this year. They've been playing games and competing on a regular basis, which is something many NHLers haven't done.

"For these guys, obviously, it's good to keep going, to keep moving and keep playing," Lilja said. "They're going to have a big advantage when the season gets going, the guys who are down here. Otherwise, you have to go to Europe and play and that's a complete different game. If you have, like me, you have kids at home, you just don't pull up the kids and go home. Then you have to go by yourself and that's even worse -- being away for that long."

The NHL lockout reached its 79th day Monday. Games through Dec. 14 have already been cancelled, as have been the Winter Classic and All-Star Game. The next round of negotiations is set for Tuesday.

"We want to play," Lilja said. "I think there's not a player in the league who doesn't want to play. Obviously we want to get this going, it's just a matter of getting a fair deal that we like and they like. It's tough. It's a tough business."

Links: Albany signed Stephen Gionta. Worcester's Tim Kennedy is your Player of the Week. Springfield has really had Connecticut's number in Hartford.

I'll have another update following Tuesday's practice and a story on Harry Zolnierczyk in Wednesday's paper. That will focus mostly on how he worked on improving his speed during the offseason. He put in a lot of work on his first step and strides over the summer and you saw a little bit of that work pay off with the shorthanded goal he scored in Friday's loss to Binghamton.

Before I go, though, anyone else remember this strange story from the last lockout involving Lilja?

Until next time,


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