Good afternoon. Going to make this quick because I'm juggling a bunch of things.

Niklas Backstrom returned to practice during today's morning skate. He had a so-far undisclosed medical procedure Thursday and felt real good on the ice this morning with no symptoms, he said. He said his legs were mush, but that has to do with the fact it was his second time on the ice since beating Columbus two weeks ago today.

Backstrom said his back pain and what he thought was the flu -- headaches -- were related to the same thing. He took medication, didn't get better and doctors finally discovered what was ailing him. He underwent a procedure Thursday -- not surgery, he says, and after some bed rest is feeling good again.

Like I said though, he said to get the details from GM Chuck Fletcher, but thus far there's no update.

Backstrom said it was a mentally-draining week. Said coach Todd Richards, "When they run all kinds of tests and it’s tough to locate the problem it becomes a little worrisome. They’ve solved the problem, I believe, and it’s great to see him out on the ice. I think your mind starts to dominate a little bit and you always start to think worst case scenario and what’s going on. These guys are finely-tuned machines and when they sense something’s wrong, there’s usually something wrong. Usually trainers can pinpoint it right away. And then when they can’t, it can be bothersome."

Backstrom said he hopes to play Wednesday vs. Phoenix, but it's too soon to tell. Anton Khudobin will still start tonight with Wade Dubielewicz backing up. Backstrom said as long as everything continues to be symptom-free, he'll be fine to back up Finland's Miikka Kiprusoff at the Olympics.

With the Flyers having Danny Carcillo and a bunch of guys who love to "run around", including captain Mike Richards (see David Booth and flying elbow at Eric Belanger's head in the preseason), either John Scott or Derek Boogaard (one morning skate since reaggravating his hamstring injury) will play tonight.

"One of them will be in for sure," Richards said. "Being with the Pittsburgh Penguins' organization for two years and living in Wilkes-Barre, you see a lot of the Flyers and how they play. I’ve witnessed firsthand games in Philadelphia, and it’s an element to their game. The one thing we have to do is not necessarily have to match them with it, but if they want to run around and do certain things, power play can be your toughness, too. If they have guys who are running around and they’re putting themselves in the box, we have to make them pay. That’s the easiest way to get guys to stop doing what they’re doing."
Flyers goalie Ray Emery won't play tonight due to tightness in his hip. Michael Leighton will start. The Red Wings, who are getting Johan Franzen back from injury, didn't want to risk putting Ville Leino on waivers. So they traded the talented but underachieving forward to Philadelphia this morning for Ole-Kristian Tollefson and a fifth-round pick. Tollefson was immediately put on waivers to try to get him to the minors. It's uncertain whether Leino will be here in time to play tonight.
Lastly, I just want to send my heartfelt condolences to Leafs GM Brian Burke, who yesterday lost his courageous 21-year-old son Brendan in a car accident that sadly also killed a friend of Brendan's, Mark Reedy. Back in November, Brendan -- a student manager for Miami University's hockey team -- publicly came out of the closet in a tremendous article written by ESPN's John Buccigross (can be read here).
Brian showed what kind of devoted father he was by standing by his youngest son's side. 
I can't even imagine the grief Brian and his family are going through. I talked on the phone with Brian, also the U.S. Olympic GM, on Wednesday afternoon and he was in the greatest of moods after pulling off two huge trades Sunday and with the anticipation of the Olympics coming up. You'll be reading a lot of stuff from Burkie in two Olympic stories I wrote for Sunday and Wednesday, and in a Sunday column I wrote on Burke for tomorrow.
Obviously the quotes are from before this tragic news. Again, keep the Burke and Reedy families in your thoughts and prayers.
OK, have a good day everybody and I'll be back after tonight's game.

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