The Flyers’ COVID-19 protocol list grew to seven players Monday as goalie Carter Hart and forwards Scott Laughton and Derick Brassard were added to it.
The team’s COVID list already included centers Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes, center/winger Morgan Frost, and defenseman Ryan Ellis, who had been rehabbing to return from an unspecified injury.
“This pandemic is raging right now and is so contagious,” said Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, who added that most of the players and staffers affected had mild symptoms. “I think everybody is trying to do the right thing, but it may not matter.”
Fletcher sounded optimistic that Hayes and Frost would come off the COVID list and be able to practice with the team Tuesday.
The Flyers open a four-game West Coast trip Wednesday in Seattle, then have stops in San Jose (Thursday), Los Angeles (Saturday), and Anaheim (next Tuesday). Fletcher said it was “unlikely” Couturier, Brassard, Hart, Laughton, or Ellis would play during the trip. “Potentially, you could get somebody back maybe for the last game in Anaheim, but I don’t expect anyone would clear in the next five days.”
Laughton and Brassard have played wing and center this season. The Flyers’ practice lines Monday looked mostly like ones they would use in an exhibition game.
Line 1: Claude Giroux centering Oskar Lindblom and Cam Atkinson.
Line 2: Patrick Brown centering Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny.
Line 3: Gerry Mayhew centering Jackson Cates and James van Riemsdyk.
Line 4: Nick Seeler, a defenseman, centering Max Willman and Zack MacEwen.
If Hayes and Frost return, they would probably center the second and third lines, respectively, in Seattle on Wednesday. Should that happen, Brown would probably center the fourth line and Mayhew might come out of the lineup.
“Hopefully Morgan and Hayes are cleared and feel good at practice [Tuesday],” Fletcher said. “We’re down a few centers right now and getting those two guys back would help.”
The four players who were the Flyers’ regular centers at the start of the season — Couturier, Brassard, Laughton, and Nate Thompson (injured) — are sidelined.
Hart, who has a 2.74 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage, has arguably been the Flyers’ best player. Martin Jones (3.33, .907) figures to start against the Kraken (10-17-3).
The Flyers (12-12-5) also announced that Willman had come off the COVID list, and that the team had recalled three players from the Phantoms — goalie Felix Sandstrom and forwards Mayhew and Cates — for their taxi squad.
Yeo could go with Sandstrom on Thursday against San Jose, Jones’ former team. Sandstrom, 24, has yet to play in an NHL game. Yeo said he was “very confident and comfortable playing Felix,” but he “wouldn’t rule out” using Jones in back-to-back games.
Meanwhile, the Flyers will continue to have daily COVID tests and hope for the best.
If a player tests positive and is symptomatic, he must remain out for at least 10 days from when the symptoms started. If a player tests positive and is asymptomatic, he can return when he has at least two straight negative tests.
“Thankfully, I can tell you nobody is very sick,” said Fletcher about the Flyers players and staffers who have contracted COVID. “A couple people had minor symptoms, but most of them were asymptomatic or had very mild symptoms.”
Fletcher reiterated that all of the Flyers players are fully vaccinated and “a lot of them” have had booster shots.
Seattle has five players, including four defensemen, in COVID protocol, and it just lost one of its best players, forward Brandon “Turbo” Tanev, because of a knee injury that will require surgery.