Philadelphia Flyers center Jeff Carter (17) falls to the ice after colliding with Chicago Blackhawks right wing Tomas Kopecky (82), of Slovakia, and Flyers left wing Daniel Carcillo, left, in the first period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals Monday, May 31, 2010, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) Charles Rex Arbogast

PHILADELPHIA - When Flyers forward Jeff Carter returned early from a broken foot, he scored two goals in his second game back, the series-clincher against Montreal.

But Carter has been held to just one assist in the first three games of the Stanley Cup final, leading to questions of how healthy he is. If Carter had suffered that same injury in the middle of the regular season - he was expected to miss at least six weeks but was out only a month - he almost certainly would not have returned early.

But coach Peter Laviolette said Carter, like the team in the first two games of the finals, is playing well and getting chances but just having tough luck.

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"I'm sure he wants to contribute more on the sheet," Laviolette said after a team meeting Thursday at the Wachovia Center. "I always look at Jeff, and when he's getting 12 attempts at the net, for me, I always know it's a matter of time. He's getting the looks. He's finding those lanes. He's finding the opportunities.

"You're right about where he's at with the injuries, to come back and be able to play at the pace that's going on out there right now. He seems to be finding it. I'm good with his game."

Team captain Mike Richards, who has centered Carter on the top line for the past five games, said Carter seems physically OK to him.

Richards, who also has not scored a goal in the finals, laughed when asked if Carter is holding their line back.

"Can I blame it all on him?" Richards said.

Carter's only issue, Richards said, is regaining his feel for the game.

"Obviously, he came back early, and obviously (that is) well-documented," Richards said. "He's got his speed. I think when you're not on the ice for a long period of time, your hands, it takes little bit to get back. I think they're coming back. He's starting to get more shots there now. The little areas, the little passes in the corner, I think he's obviously doing a lot better job of finding those seams, and the little plays through people.

"But when you're not on the ice, not in game shape for that long, I think it's tough to just get your hands back right away. I think he's getting better slowly and making the little plays. I think we're playing well. We're just unfortunately not getting the results, obviously, that we want. If we keep going, I think they're going to come."

Carter, like many of his teammates, did not practice Thursday, and he was not available to the media.


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