After Flyers forward Morgan Frost played against the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 1, he was told that he was being sent down to the Phantoms. Instead of taking time off as NHL games paused briefly for the All-Star break, Frost would continue to develop in the AHL for the time being.
The news didn’t come as a surprise, Frost said.
“I think definitely some ups and downs when I was up before,” Frost said of his play. “I think I was kind of trending in the right direction the last few games and then obviously the break happens. So that kind of [stunk].”
Frost didn’t play as many minutes during the break as the team would have hoped. From Feb. 4-8, he skated in three games for the Phantoms and he registered a goal and an assist. A non-COVID illness kept him out of the lineup for two games. Upon his return on Sunday, Frost scored the go-ahead goal to help the Phantoms beat the Hershey Bears, 3-2.
After focusing on his hydration and his nutrition, Frost said he feels “a lot better now.” Getting the call-up from the Flyers on Monday gave him a boost of energy, too. Now, Frost aspires to build on his progress established in his last couple games with the Flyers in which he averaged 13 minutes, 41 seconds of ice time and made strides defensively.
“I think it’s pretty clear what they are expecting of me and I’ve just got to go out there and do it,” Frost said. “Keep getting better every game. I think it’s definitely a process for me. It’s not just gonna happen in two or three games.
“I’m excited for the challenge and the coaching staff’s been great with helping me develop.”
Against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, interim head coach Mike Yeo wants to see an aggressive edge to his team, especially in the defensive zone. In Frost’s last four to five games with the Flyers, Yeo noticed how much more assertive Frost was in the defensive zone.
Yeo was impressed with Frost’s ability to use his body to separate players from pucks, regain possession, and get on the attack. Alongside wingers Max Willman and Gerry Mayhew, Frost’s third line established an aggressive forecheck. In turn, the line spent more time with the puck and generated scoring opportunities.
Now, Frost will be tasked with showcasing that same style of assertive play against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and the Penguins.
“The worst thing you can do is say, ‘I don’t want to get beat. I don’t want to get beat,’” Yeo said. “We have to be good defensively tonight. We have to be in good position. But when you have that mindset, you are going to get beat. We have to take the fight to them. We have to be aggressive. And that’s what I want to see from Morgan here tonight.”
Mayhew out with swollen eye
In a season marked by injuries to key players like center Sean Couturier and defenseman Ryan Ellis, the Flyers are now calling on backups to their backups. Mayhew, dealing with a swollen eye, will not play against the Penguins. Instead, forward Jackson Cates will slot into the lineup.
“[He’s] at the point where he can’t even get a contact in his eye,” Yeo said of Mayhew. “Obviously he’s out tonight. So, hits keep coming. It’s another one. But, you know what? Next man up and we’ll just have to find a way here tonight.”
In the third period against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, Mayhew tripped on goalie Thomas Greiss’ stick and crashed headfirst into the end boards. As blood gushed from his face, he remained down on the ice while he received medical attention. Ultimately, he was able to skate off the ice and walk back to the locker room where he received stitches.
Mayhew missed practice on Monday as he continued to deal with the swollen eye. While he made the trip to Pittsburgh, the swelling didn’t improve to the point where he would be able to play and he did not participate in the morning skate.
Forwards Kevin Hayes (adductor) and Patrick Brown (knee) traveled to Pittsburgh and took part in the morning skate, rotating in at third-line right wing in Mayhew’s place during line rushes. However, Yeo said both players are still getting back into playing condition and neither is ready to return to the lineup.
The Flyers will look to snap their two-game losing streak against the Penguins in Pittsburgh (7 p.m.). Carter Hart will start in goal. ... Penguins captain Sidney Crosby enters the game sitting at 499 career goals. Crosby has racked up 49 goals and 117 points in 78 games against the Flyers. ... The Flyers announced on Tuesday night that defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has been placed on injured reserve.