Suddenly, the Flyers have options.
After Thursday’s slew of positive injury updates, the good news continued Friday when the Flyers announced Derick Brassard is ready to return to the lineup.
In the past week, the Flyers have seen five players return. Rasmus Ristolainen (upper body), who went out Feb. 9, and Patrick Brown (MCL), who went out Jan. 11, returned for Monday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Joel Farabee (shoulder) has been out since Jan. 18 and was determined game-ready Thursday. Carter Hart missed two games with an eye infection but was also better by Thursday.
While Brassard (hip) practiced with the third line Thursday, interim head coach Mike Yeo said he needed another day to be extra sure he was ready, especially considering Brassard’s three previous comebacks that re-aggravated his injury each time.
On Friday, Brassard started with the top two power-play units as they went through drills before practice. When they joined the rest of the team, he centered the third line in place of Morgan Frost. After practice, Brassard said he felt good to go.
“I made sure to ask several times, ‘Are you sure?’ ” Yeo said when asked if he was hesitant to bring him back after the three failed returns. “And yeah, no, he feels good. And again, he’s been out for a while. He’s had a lot of skates. ... So I’m confident. And obviously, now, just got to get through the game.”
In addition to strengthening the lines, the returning players give the team options on special teams as well. Brassard and Farabee both contributed on the power play before their injuries, and Farabee, Brown and Ristolainen all kill penalties.
While the players were out, the team showed some progress, despite a lack of victories. They’ve competed with some of the best teams in the league and fallen just short. As disappointing as it’s been, winger Travis Konecny said they feel like they’re “trending in the right direction.” And now that they have experienced players like Brassard and Farabee returning, the Flyers have been given an extra boost.
“Adding these guys, as of late, is just adding to that confidence that we have,” Konecny said. “They’re two big guys to add to the lineup, and they’re going to make a difference. That just gives us that much more confidence that we can get the job done.”
Two in, two out
With each player’s return, another has to leave the lineup.
Frost, Max Willman, Gerry Mayhew and Isaac Ratcliffe have all made positive impressions since being called up. But with two forwards returning, two others will have to sit. Frost and Willman are the two who will give up their positions, even though Yeo thought they’ve had strong performances recently.
“This is just what happens now,” Yeo said. “We got competition. We didn’t have that before. So it’s a good thing.”
Yeo doesn’t think this will hurt their development. Willman is an experienced player at 26 years old and has been playing well. At 22, Frost has still been finding his way and has only recently started to build confidence and adjust to the NHL. But Yeo said Frost is “fine in where he’s at” and has the belief of the organization behind him.
Now, it just comes down to deciding whether a reduced role at the NHL level or more responsibilities in the AHL will serve Frost better. After getting sent down and called up after the All-Star break, Frost said he understands the benefits of going back to the AHL.
“For sure, there’s some growing still to be done,” Yeo said. “But I think that he’s doing a good job, and he’s on track, and now obviously, it’s still a very, very strong focus of ours as far as what’s best for him.”
The Flyers will host the Washington Capitals at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. ... Carter Hart will start in net. ... Cam Atkinson said it’s been a tough season, but he and the other leaders are still trying to make coming to the rink fun. That was apparent when Atkinson (5-foot-8) tried to startle Rasmus Ristolainen (6-foot-4) at Friday’s practice. “I don’t think he saw me when I went to hit him in one of the first drills,” Atkinson said. “But I have to keep him on his toes because he works hard in practice. I’ll get him one of these days.” ... Winger Wade Allison participated in a rehab skate before practice.