With shades of green, yellow and purple painting his left eye, Gerry Mayhew sat in front of the media and said with a grin that he was back and ready to play.
Mayhew had been out since Saturday when he went crashing into the boards behind the net while in Detroit. He crumpled to the ice and tore off his helmet as blood streamed down his face from above his eye and from his nose. Mayhew said it was very scary in the moment.
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“It kind of flashed before your eyes,” Mayhew said. “You look up and the boards are there and next thing you know, you’re bleeding.”
Luckily, Mayhew already had an idea that his eye was fine and that he wasn’t concussed because he could still see and didn’t have a headache. The Flyers checked him out as a precaution, and Mayhew ended up with 12 stitches — six on the inside and six on the outside.
The team originally expected Mayhew back for Tuesday’s game against the Penguins, but he woke up with his eye so swollen that he couldn’t even get a contact in. Instead, Isaac Ratcliffe moved up a line while Mayhew sat in the press box and watched through the lenses of his glasses.
His eye has healed a lot since then, although it’s still not a pretty sight. But the Flyers don’t need him to look pretty. They’re excited to get him back on a line with Morgan Frost and Max Willman, which will hopefully rekindle some of the chemistry the three had built before the All-Star break.
Mayhew, Frost, and Willman all spent time with the Phantoms and took some time to hit their stride in the NHL. In the six games before the break, they started to click and as a result became productive.
“A big part of it was the speed of Gerry and Max and sort of the mentality just to go north,” interim coach Mike Yeo said. “I thought their forecheck was very effective for those guys.”
Both Mayhew and Willman also helped bring out Frost’s talents. Frost is a skilled offensive player who’s more about finesse. While there are things that Frost has to do himself to bring his game up to its potential, Yeo said, he’s also someone who needs his teammates to “put him in spots where he has the ability to make plays and create things.”
Frost was starting to do that before the break, before returning to the Phantoms for added game time while the NHL team had off. He did not return until Tuesday’s game, after Mayhew had already been injured, so the line hasn’t played together since Feb. 1. Mayhew and Yeo both hope they can get back to where they were before the break, when the team won its final two games.
“I thought they generated a lot of momentum for us,” Yeo said. “They were shooting pucks, they were going on net. They weren’t complicating the game. They were playing the game with a real strong work ethic and against this team tonight, that’ll be a good challenge and something that they’re gonna need, for sure.”
Looking to Laughton
It’s not a surprise that Scott Laughton’s offensive game has improved recently, Yeo said. When you put him with players who are “more geared towards” offense, like James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny, it makes sense his offensive game would be reinforced.
Laughton, who can play anywhere on a line or in a lineup, has also spent the majority of his time this season at center. Staying in one place, has helped him find his stride, and being in the middle helps him utilize his speed more.
“You look at a lot of the goals that he’s scored, he’s been able to create a lot by using his speed through the middle of the ice,” Yeo said.
But the biggest area Yeo sees improvement is in Laughton’s leadership skills. With so many guys out, including team leaders Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes, someone needed to step up.
“We put that A on his jersey, and I feel that he’s taken a huge step in that regard,” Yeo said. “He’s so vocal on the bench right now. Doesn’t matter if we’re up a goal, if we’re down a goal. And his leadership goes far more than just what you’re saying.”
The Flyers host the Washington Capitals Thursday at 7 p.m. ... Martin Jones will start in goal. ... Rasmus Ristolainen (upper body), Kevin Hayes (adductor), Patrick Brown (MCL) and Derick Brassard (hip) skated with the team at morning skate. Yeo said he hopes Ristolainen and Brown will be cleared after the game. Hayes has shown a lot of improvement, so Yeo’s not sure if the March 1 timeline, when they were going to decide his status for the rest of the season, has moved up. Yeo still doesn’t have a timeline for Brassard.