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Flyers deep on 'D'

Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen make losing Chris Pronger a little easier for the Flyers to deal with. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen make losing Chris Pronger a little easier for the Flyers to deal with. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Last week's announcement that Philadelphia Flyers captain Chris Pronger would miss the remainder of the season and playoffs to post-concussion syndrome raised questions over management's approach to address his absence.

It's been suggested GM Paul Holmgren will target a big-name blueliner like Nashville's Shea Weber, or pursue a more affordable depth option, like Carolina's Tim Gleason or Jaroslav Spacek.

Holmgren, however, implied a trade isn’t necessary by pointing out his club already had the luxury of four strong blueliners in Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros.

He also noted promising rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson, sidelined by a wrist injury, will soon rejoin the lineup, plus rookie blueliner Marc-Andre Bourdon, who's been paired with Carle, has acquitted himself well.

The Flyers aren't novices at adjusting to Pronger's absence this season, entering this week with a 9-3 record since his last game Nov. 19, including seven straight victories in December.

Depending on how the Flyers perform in the coming weeks, Holmgren could consider trade options, especially if injuries strike again, or if the rookies struggle.

For now, it doesn't appear the Flyers will make any significant additions following the holiday freeze.

CATS NEED CLAWS

The Florida Panthers continue to defy skeptics of their massive off-season roster overhaul by beginning this week perched atop the Southeast Division, only one point out of first overall in the conference.

One reason for their success is the first line of center Stephen Weiss, left winger Tomas Fleischmann and right winger Kris Versteeg, who are not only the Panthers leading scorers, but rank among the league's offensive leaders.

The downside, however, is those three account for 39 of the club's 87 goals thus far. The next-highest-scoring Panthers forward is left winger Sean Bergenheim, with seven goals in 26 games.

Center Shawn Matthias has shown some recent signs of improvement and the return of Mikael Samuelsson and Scottie Upshall from injury will also boost their secondary production.

Still, there's talk Panthers GM Dale Tallon will try to add another top-six forward to ensure his team has sufficient scoring depth to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

The Ottawa Sun cited sources claiming Tallon will try to move backup goalie Scott Clemmensen, which would also free up room for the promising Jacob Markstrom.

Clemmensen alone, however, will not be enough to add another top-six scorer.

WILL THE MAPLE LEAFS BE AGGRESSIVE AFTER CHRISTMAS?

Toronto Maple Leafs fans hoping GM Brian Burke will make a major trade in the two months between the end of the Christmas “trade freeze” on Dec. 27 and the NHL’s Feb. 27 trade deadline might be disappointed.

Burke hasn’t been afraid to make major moves, but he recently told The Toronto Star that, for the first time since taking over as Leafs GM, he's “looking at fine-tuning now.”

That would run counter to blogosphere-generated speculation he's got a “deal in principle” to land Eric Staal from Carolina or Rick Nash from Columbus once the trade freeze ends.

The areas in need of “fine-tuning” include their woeful penalty kill (currently the worst in the league), their high goals-against per game (3.25), and their sputtering second line.

Goaltending is also a rising concern. James Reimer has yet to regain the stellar form he displayed before his early-season whiplash injury, and Jonas Gustavsson continues to struggle.

There are also calls for Burke to bring in a quality center for the first or second line. The Leafs have been linked to Colorado's Paul Stastny and Columbus' Derick Brassard.

If Burke is looking to “tweak,” Brassard would fall under that category, though his salary and performance this season suggest he is not the type of center the Leafs GM is looking for. 

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.

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