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John Tortorella makes debut behind Flyers bench on Sunday night

The new coach had previously been studying the preseason games from the coaches' box. He's moving for the game against the Islanders.

Flyers coach John  Tortorella (right) watches play from the coaches' box during the exhibition game against the Capitals on Friday.
Flyers coach John Tortorella (right) watches play from the coaches' box during the exhibition game against the Capitals on Friday.Read moreElizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer

After moving behind the camera for a season, John Tortorella will return to his spot behind the bench for his Flyers coaching debut in the road preseason game against the New York Islanders.

Despite his excitement about returning to coaching, Tortorella isn’t all that enthused about coaching Sunday night. “It really doesn’t matter to me,” Tortorella said. “It’s camp. Exhibition games are exhibition games.”

Through the first four preseason games, Tortorella had been watching from the coaches’ box, only heading to ice level for practices. He feels he has learned a lot about his team, but there’s still a ways to go. At this point, he’s not focusing on team performance or wins and losses. Instead, he’s evaluating players individually.

» READ MORE: Flyers falter in second period vs. Boston, lose third straight preseason game, 4-0

“There’s still question marks in certain positions,” Tortorella said.

Even if he wanted to test a potential opening-night lineup, he couldn’t because the team is “nicked,” Tortorella said. Goalie Felix Sandstrom left Saturday’s game early, and Tortorella did not provide an update on him. Ivan Provorov, who had a maintenance day Friday, did not play in Saturday’s game and won’t play in Sunday’s either. Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee still aren’t cleared for contact, and Sean Couturier has not returned to the ice.

The silver lining in all that, Tortorella said, is that it gives the Flyers more opportunity to evaluate the players competing for spots. For example, it gives them time to continue to test the Cates brothers, Jackson and Noah, who have been the standouts of camp. On Saturday, they split them up for the first time to see how they’d respond, and on Sunday, they will move Noah from wing to center.

Players on the bubble are Tortorella’s focus for now, and he’ll talk to the veterans more once the rosters are set on Oct. 10 at 5 p.m.

New pairing

Tony DeAngelo is well aware of what his new coach thought of his performance with his new defensive partner, Provorov, in their first preseason game.

“It stunk,” Tortorella said.

“I might have seen that,” DeAngelo said with a grin. Tortorella added that the players were probably tired, but DeAngelo didn’t take that excuse. He said he felt like he wasn’t reading the ice properly and is looking for a bounce-back performance.

However, they won’t get the opportunity to rebound as a pair Sunday with Provorov sitting out another game. Instead, DeAngelo will play alongside Cam York, a young player with a similar skill set to his.

Both DeAngelo and York are smaller defensemen who have an offensive mind-set. DeAngelo is excited to see what they can do together.

“He’s got great skill,” DeAngelo said. “Really good skating and skills, so I think there’s a really bright future for him.”


The Flyers will play the Islanders at 7 p.m. at UBS Arena in their second-to-last game of the preseason. The game will be streamed on the Islanders’ team website. ... Farabee stayed after practice to shoot around with Ronnie Attard, J.R. Avon, and Ryan Fitzgerald. He got a little bit of contact in as he battled in front of the net. ... Carter Hart, who was injured in camp, is not in the game group. He said he expected to play in the preseason, and there is just one game left.