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Poker not practice on Monday for the Flyers

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Please explain how JVR "is not feeling any different" but they decided to "shuck the gray, non-contact jersey" because Lavy says "we're short on bodies."

So JVR doesn't feel better but you open up to contact because the Flyers are short on bodies?

I'm confused.

The Flyers did not practice Monday, but they did congregate at a local restaurant for their annual team poker night. The event, arranged by coach Peter Laviolette, invites players to bring their significant others for an evening of strategy and skill.

The hope, of course, is that the team bonds.

Given the 1-4-1 rut in which the Flyers now find themselves, bonding cannot hurt, whether they play Texas Hold'em or paper football.

"Spending time with the guys away from the rink is always a good thing," said Danny Briere, who last scored Jan. 7, a goalless run of 11 games.

Monday night was fruitless, too; Briere bombed out early.

Poker expert Scott Hartnell made it to the final table, where, according to Briere, Jaromir Jagr's girlfriend won the tournament.

Jagr turned 40 yesterday. He missed a vigorous workout, the second hard session during the rare, 3-day layoff from games. Jagr has scored once in his last 16 games. He attended Tuesday's practice, where he said he has battled the sort of flu that knocked Ilya Bryzgalov out for three games and has Laviolette speaking in a raspy voice.

Briere said that he, for one, has been as healthy as a horse. He is just slumping.

"We all go through stretches in the season when the puck isn't going in. You worry more about the process," Briere said. "I thought, skatingwise, I've been skating really well the last three games. I believe [tonight] is the game when the floodgates are going to break open."

Certainly, the 3-day layoff after a brutal, dissatisfying stretch could turn things around for the Flyers. They have not had a stretch of more than 2 days without a game since the All-Star break, Jan. 25-30. They also had 3 days without a game beginning Christmas Eve.

Battered by injury and pressured by deficits, the Flyers were flagging.

"We've been playing a lot of games and the guys have been taxed with a lot of minutes," Hartnell said. "Playing from behind is hard on the mind as well. I think to have a couple days' break here is great."

"We're trying to clear our heads," Briere said. "Having some good, long, hard practices."

The event on Monday was just a springboard to the past 2 days, and toward tonight, when the Sabres visit.

"It's nice to have team-building stuff. You get the guys' wives and girlfriends and friends and coaching staff, away from the practice or arena, get together and have fun," Hartnell said.

Laviolette declined to discuss the party beyond allowing, with a smile, that it was a pleasant diversion.

Not that Laviolette reinvented the wheel.

"Teams do these things all the time. Does it always work?" Briere said. "No."

But it never hurts.

JVR's new sweater

James van Riemsdyk yesterday shucked the gray, non-contact jersey he has been wearing for his regular orange one. However, through a team spokesman, JVR said he was feeling no different than he has been.

Van Riemsdyk suffered a concussion just over a month ago and has not played since. He practiced with the second power play and replaced Jaromir Jagr on the top line.

Noncommittally, Peter Laviolette said, "We're short on bodies."

No timetable has been set for van Reimsdyk's return, but his teammates were heartened to see him fully participate in a spirited workout, perhaps the hardest he has been pushed since the injury.

"He's skating well and looks strong on his skates and has pretty nice hands, so hopefully he'll be able to be symptom-free for a while," Scott Hartnell said, "[and] have the confidence to get out there and get some hits and take some hits and get back in the game."

"It seemed like he had lots of pop," Briere said. "So [hopefully] he keeps moving in the right direction."

Well, Read

Matt Read hosted and entertained 40 students from Pennbrook Middle School in North Wales who excelled in a reading program. Their reward was the trip to the Flyers' Skate Zone in Voorhees for practice and a quick question-and-answer session with the literary named winger.

Teammate Zac Rinaldi asserted that Read earns his last name; that, on team charters, Read likely will stick his nose in a book and escape into the biography of, say, Lance Armstrong, Theo Fleury or Canadian golfer Mike Weir.

"I'd like to be a better reader than I am," Read said.

Maybe he should visit Pennbrook.

Slap shots

Jakub Voracek (upper-body injury) wore the gray, non-contact jersey at practice. Voracek, who missed Sunday's game at Detroit, said he was improving but that he did not know his status for tonight . . . Zac Rinaldo will serve the first game of a two-game suspension tonight. Jody Shelley is expected to dress, but if Voracek does not play, the Flyers might need to recall another forward from the Phantoms; perhaps Eric Wellwood, who played in place of Voracek on Sunday, or Harry Zolnierczyk . . . Like Voracek, Andrej Meszaros (upper-body injury) also is day-to-day . . . With the penalty kill and power play sputtering, the Flyers focused on those units the past 2 days.

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""I'd like to be a better reader than I am," Read said.

Maybe he should visit Pennbrook."

Hockey players for the most part are much better "read" than most athletes. Considering that Read went to four years of college, that is a bit of a dig by the columnist (not sure who he is).

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this has got to be classic flyer's misinformation here. he's not shucking anything without being cleared. they probably just don't wanna get the media and fans all excited about an imminent return... probably because he's so rusty he needs a week or more to get back to playing shape. that's my guess anyway.

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