DALLAS – For the first time this season, the Flyers had the 18 skaters they wanted in the lineup Saturday night in Dallas.
Defenseman Ryan Ellis, sidelined the last nine games because of an unspecified injury, and center Kevin Hayes, who had missed the entire season as he rehabbed from his second abdominal surgery, faced the Stars.
“They’re both big parts of our team. I mean, Ryan is in our top four defensemen, and Kevin is a top-two centerman, so having both those guys in, slots other players in other slots and should make us a real good team,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said before the Flyers’ 5-2 loss.
Both players should also help a struggling power play, one that was in a 2-for-29 funk before Hayes and Ellis set up Ivan Provorov’s third-period goal.
Ellis had been on the top unit, but started Saturday on the third pairing with Keith Yandle. Before the game, Ellis said it didn’t matter where he played, that he was “just excited to get back into the lineup.”
Hayes, 29, was on a line with wingers Joel Farabee and Cam Atkinson. Call it the Boston Line, since all three have ties to the city. Hayes and Atkinson played at Boston College, and Farabee played at Boston University.
“I feel good. Obviously it’s been a while since I played,” Hayes, who missed all of training camp, said prior to playing nearly 15 minutes and taking three shots. “I think it’s just time to get back in the game. I feel ready and feel I can help this team right now. ... In a perfect world, I’m right back up to speed. You won’t know until you try. The hardest part about coming back is that you don’t know what’s the best time to come back, [but] I feel confident in my game.”
Hayes has dedicated his play to his late brother, Jimmy, 31, a former NHL player who died Aug. 23 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. Hayes, who said Jimmy was his best friend, was full of emotions as he prepared to play a game without contacting his brother afterward.
“I’ve been thinking about that for a while now,” he said before the opening faceoff. “This is probably the first game of my NHL career where I won’t be able to text my brother after the game and kind of talk about it and joke about it and chat with him. I don’t really know the emotions I’m going to have when I go out there, honestly.”
Added Hayes: “I’ve been trying to prepare for it, but there’s no real playbook on how to handle these situations. I’m hoping I can just help the team win.”
Ellis, 30, played in the first three games, during which the Flyers’ power play was 3-for-7; the PP went 4-for-28 in the next nine games without him.
Hayes was a power-play contributor last season.
“I think the best thing about Kevin is the energy he brings every day,” Farabee said. “Just seeing him back in practice and getting his legs back is really exciting to see. He’s obviously a really good player, and when he’s around, guys are usually in a pretty good mood. We’re definitely happy to have him back. He’s been looking really good in practices.”
Hayes “has been marking days off” on a calendar “for when he wanted to come back,” Farabee said. “He loves the game, he loves being around the guys, and we’re really excited for him to come back.”
The Flyers had an admirable 7-3-2 record without Hayes, and a 5-3-1 mark without Ellis.
“It sucks watching, but it’s been awesome as well ... to see how we’ve been playing,” Hayes said, adding that his teammates had “some unreal road wins.”
The two players did their rehab work together.
“It’s easier when you go through it with someone, rather than doing it alone,” Ellis said. “We got to skate together and bond over ‘the suck.’ "
Right winger Nic Aube-Kubel, 25, drafted by the Flyers in the second round in 2014, was claimed off waivers by Colorado. The Flyers were hoping to send him to the Phantoms.
Vigneault said he was happy Aube-Kubel will get a chance with the Avs, but disappointed he is no longer in the Flyers’ organization.
Aube-Kubel is in the last year of a contract that has an annual $1.075 million cap hit.
Forward Patrick Brown and defenseman Nick Seeler came out of the lineup; Seeler (minus-1), who played in 11 games and contributed some physical play, was sent to the Phantoms. ... Oskar Lindblom was minus-3 in Saturday’s loss. ... In his career, Carter Hart is 8-1-1 in regular-season games when he faces 40 or more shots; he stopped 39 of 40 and stole Friday’s 2-1 comeback win in Carolina. … The Flyers’ Orange and Black alumni game will be held Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Lower-level tickets starting at $35 are available. … On Saturday, the Flyers completed a stretch in which they played seven of nine games on the road.