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Braydon Coburn could give Flyers fans reason to cheer

CHICAGO -- There is more than a casual interest in the Stanley Cup finals in the City of Brotherly Love.

True, the Philadelphia Flyers have not celebrated a Stanley Cup championship since 1975, but at some point in the next few days, a key member of recent Flyers teams -- including from their last team to advance to a Stanley Cup finals, in 2010 -- will hoist the trophy high in celebration.

For general manager Ron Hextall, it is a time of mixed emotions.

At the trade deadline this season, he traded veteran Kimmo Timonen, an anchor on the Flyers' blue line since 2007, to the Chicago Blackhawks and sent Timonen’s longtime defense partner Braydon Coburn to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I’m absolutely thrilled for both of them," Hextall told ESPN.com this week.

Timonen had not played at all this season before the trade due to blood clotting issues and has had a lesser impact, at least on the ice, with the Blackhawks. But there is no downplaying the effect Coburn has had since joining the Lightning.

The 6-foot-5 defenseman has been paired with Jason Garrison and, along with top duo Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman, they have helped make the Lightning a formidable defensive squad on their march to the team’s first Stanley Cup finals since 2004.

The native of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, didn’t even learn he was traded until the morning after.

"Woke up in the morning and my wife had checked on my son and she told me I’d better check my phone because her phone was kind of exploding," Coburn recalled. "And I had some messages on there, so I listened to them all and one was Ron [Hextall] and one was Steve [Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman] and they just kind of apologized for doing it all late-night, but I didn’t really care because I had my phone off to get a good night’s sleep."

It wasn’t the first time he’d been dealt in his career, but the eighth overall pick in 2003 by the Atlanta Thrashers was certainly in a different spot in his life and career than when he was acquired by Philadelphia at the 2007 trade deadline.

"Oh yeah. Absolutely," Coburn said.

"Philly had become home for the past eight seasons and I had two kids there and got married. There was a lot that happened. Better part of my 20s. It was a big change for sure. It was a big difference from the first time I got traded."

Former Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren told ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun earlier this spring that Coburn was always among the most fit of Flyers at training camp and accepted any assignment without hesitation.

"None of us could say a bad thing about Braydon," Holmgren told LeBrun.

"He did everything we asked in Philadelphia. He was always in the best shape of everybody coming into camp. He’s a good player -- you can’t find 6-foot-5 guys who can skate like that and defend. Every time we had asked him over the years to play against [Alex] Ovechkin or [Sidney] Crosby, he’s the guy that took that assignment, and he’s good at it, he’s big, he’s hard to get around, he can skate as good as anybody. Just a real solid player, but also just a real solid person more than anything."

The transition to Tampa wasn’t particularly easy for Coburn, who played four games for the Lightning before breaking his foot. He did not play again until the start of the playoffs.

"I got here and I played four games, and I could tell right away this was an easygoing group," Coburn said. "A lot of young guys, easy to get along with and some good veteran guys that made me feel comfortable right away.

"But you know as far trying to figure out how this team plays ... that was the tough part because you couldn’t practice [after suffering the foot injury]. There was a stretch the team went on a road trip, and stuff like that, you just kind of get sick of watching all the time."

As the Lightning face a must-win situation in Chicago on Monday night, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper has been effusive in his praise of what Coburn has meant to the Lightning.

"I've been extremely impressed with him because he came into a tough situation," with the foot injury and the tight nature of the Tampa locker room," Cooper said prior to Game 5.

"But it's a tribute to him, what a quality guy he is, what our team is like. We never excluded him. The players brought him wherever we went. All he did was work his tail off, and then he has to kind of make his debut in his first game of the playoffs. That's a pretty tall order considering he hadn't played in six weeks. All he has done is he's just gotten progressively better with us. The kid can skate. He defends. He does everything we were hoping he would. He’s just kind of anchored us back there as we’ve tried to elevate our top four."

Timonen and Coburn became fast friends during their shared time with the Flyers. While it won’t be nearly the same as having a parade of their own, Flyers fans will at least get a chance to share in some reflected glory in the coming days as either Timonen or Coburn will win his first championship.

The downside, of course, is that one will be left with an empty feeling.