As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact rosters across the league, the Flyers received good news on Saturday when goalie Carter Hart and forward Scott Laughton were removed from COVID-19 protocols.
On Monday, Hart and Laughton participated in the Flyers’ practice at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., one day before their game against the Ducks. Laughton will “100 percent” be in the lineup and there’s a “decent chance” Hart will start, according to interim head coach Mike Yeo.
“[I] felt good on the ice today,” Hart said. “It was nice to get on. Haven’t touched the ice in a while. Had to shake the rust off and it was good to get back in the mix with the boys.”
In the absence of Hart, the Flyers have had to rely on backups in net throughout the West Coast trip. Martin Jones started against the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday and the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. Taxi squad goalie Felix Sandström started Thursday on the second night of a back-to-back against the San Jose Sharks.
Before being placed on the COVID-19 list, Hart said he had the flu, which forced him to miss the Flyers’ game against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 18. Hart has not started a game since Dec. 16 against the Montréal Canadiens.
Although he said Saturday that forward Derick Brassard would make the trip to Anaheim after getting cleared from COVID-19 protocols as well, Yeo said that Brassard ultimately remained in Philadelphia.
“Felt it was just best for him to stay behind, get a skate there,” Yeo said. “And then have a chance for — again, we definitely want to see him in a practice before we throw him into a game. But he’s not ready for [Tuesday’s] game.”
Brassard had a long layoff before being placed in COVID-19 protocols. The 34-year-old forward has been dealing with a hip strain for over a month, which was suffered against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 23. He then missed two weeks, returned to play against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 8, and hasn’t been in the lineup since.
No timeline for Ellis’ return
In addition to Hart, Laughton, and Brassard, defenseman Ryan Ellis has also been cleared from COVID-19 protocols after entering them on Dec. 26, according to Yeo. However, Ellis has been dealing with a lower-body injury all season and Yeo said he had no timeline for his return.
“When you don’t have a guy like that in your lineup, you feel it defensively, and you also see it in the execution part of our game,” Yeo said. “Like the game we want to play, we want to play a fast game. We want to get on the attack. We want to get to the offensive zone. He’s a guy that helps you do those things. So, it’s tough not having him. And I know it’s been a real frustrating time for him. He’s just not making a lot of progress right now.”
Ellis reaggravated his lower-body injury upon returning to action against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 13 and has been out of the lineup since then. In late November, general manager Chuck Fletcher said Ellis was week-to-week and was seemingly optimistic about his progress.
No Olympics ‘super disappointing’
In late December as COVID-19 cases surged across the continent, the NHL announced that it would not permit its players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. Instead, the Olympic break in the NHL calendar would be used to make up more than 90 games that had been postponed due to COVID-19 positives or other pandemic-related concerns.
Among those in consideration for Canada’s Olympic roster was Hart, who was reportedly one of six goalies on the nation’s list of candidates. Now, the potential for Hart to realize his Olympic dream will be delayed for at least another four years.
“Any time you get the chance to represent your country is a huge honor,” Hart said. “The Olympics is the ultimate dream to represent your country. I thought this year, with all the hype around it and building up to it, players were getting really excited. I mean, it’s disappointing for sure. The situation we’re in right now with the world, it [stinks]. It’s tough. But hopefully they get this figured out here, soon, ‘cause we can’t keep living like this.”
» READ MORE: Flyers one point away from a positive holiday trip
The Flyers added defenseman Nick Seeler, forward Jackson Cates, and one staff member to their COVID-19 protocol list. ... The Ducks announced that they canceled their Monday practice “out of an abundance of caution” after placing forwards Nicolas Deslauriers and Derek Grant and a club staff member in COVID-19 protocols. As of Monday evening, the game is still on as scheduled at 10 p.m. Tuesday.