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Coach Neilson To Assist Flyers

Roger Neilson will return to the Philadelphia Flyers for their playoff against Pittsburgh, but he will not be behind the bench.

Neilson, recovering from a stem-cell transplant for bone marrow cancer, will assist interim coach Craig Ramsay when the Flyers-Penguins series begins this week.

Neilson and general manager Bob Clarke discussed the decision at practice Monday.

Dr. Isadore Brodsky said he did not want the 65-year-old Neilson returning to full-time coaching at this point.

"Although Roger is anxious to return as head coach, we need to be sure that he does not take on too much at this time and in any way adversely impact his recovery," Brodsky said.

Neilson had wanted to return for the first round of the playoffs, but Clarke and Brodsky determined he wasn't ready. Neilson left for Dallas on April 14 because he felt he was a distraction.

He said he understood the reasons for limiting his return to work.

"Although I had hoped to come back as head coach, I am completely respectful of the doctors' opinions," he said.

Clarke said he was pleased Neilson would be helping Ramsay and called Neilson a "great asset."

Ramsay said he didn't think the team's solid play lately had anything to do with the decision to keep Neilson from leading the team. Under Ramsay, the team overcame a 15-point deficit to capture the top seeding in the conference, then beat Buffalo in five games in the opening round of the playoffs.

"I think the decision was made in the best interest of Roger," Ramsay said. "This organization wants Roger to be healthy. We want him to work. We want him around. We want his insight and his enthusiasm."

This has been a season of upheaval for the Flyers. The team has also had to deal with a fight between Clarke and former captain Eric Lindros. Lindros, who has been out of the lineup recovering from a concussion, accused the team of misdiagnosing his injury.

Ramsay and several players said the team is still focused on the playoffs.

"We showed in the first round how we were able to put this stuff aside and just play hockey," forward John LeClair said.

"I don't think it's been uncomfortable for the team," Ramsay said. "The team has played well. Roger's a very important part of what we've accomplished so far. Everybody understands that."

Neilson left the team as coach Feb. 19 to pursue aggressive treatment of the rare form of bone marrow cancer he was diagnosed with in December.

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