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Friday, May 14, 2004
Ragnarsson sidelined for playoffs

Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Marcus Ragnarsson will miss the rest of the playoffs after breaking his left index finger in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

 Marcus Ragnarsson

Ragnarsson, who underwent surgery Friday afternoon, played just three shifts Thursday night in Philadelphia's 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning that put the Flyers behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

"It's the same thing that has been going on all year. We'll have to get over it and get used to it," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Rookie Joni Pitkanen, a healthy scratch the last two games, will take Ragnarsson's spot for Game 4 on Saturday. Dennis Seidenberg will be called up from the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms to be a backup, and forward Sami Kapanen will remain on defense for the rest of the series.

Kapanen first moved to defense when Kim Johnsson missed the first three games of the first-round series against New Jersey with a hand injury. He returned to his usual spot at right wing against Toronto in the second round, then went back to defense when Hitchcock decided to bench Pitkanen for Game 2 against the Lightning.

"Sami is a product of the way hockey has developed (in Finland)," Hitchcock said. "They are taught at an early age to play all five positions except goal. He was well coached before he got here. He has a great understanding of how the game is played."

Kapanen has two goals and six assists in the playoffs.

"Sami can get categorized as a special player," Flyers forward Jeremy Roenick said. "Not many players can make that transition to the back line."

Kapanen will be paired with Pitkanen, Johnsson will play with Mattias Timander and Vladimir Malakhov and Danny Markov will stay together on Philadelphia's defensive units.

Ragnarsson had one goal and four assists in 14 playoff games. He had three assists in Philadelphia's 6-2 victory over Tampa Bay in Game 2. His surgery was successful and the prognosis is excellent, the team said.

"Ragnarsson has been tremendous," Hitchcock said. "He was arguably the best defenseman for the two teams. Now other guys have to step up."

Pitkanen, the fourth overall pick in the 2002 NHL entry draft, had eight goals and 19 assists in the regular season. He has three assists in 12 playoff games.

Hitchcock wasn't going to use Pitkanen in the playoffs, choosing to go with more experienced defensemen, but had to play him once Eric Desjardins went down with a forearm injury.

"We want him to be fearless with the puck," Hitchcock said. "We want him to take off and go, skate with the puck. He's played great defensively."