Flyers’ Claude Giroux returns to practice after clearing COVID-19 protocols, Rasmus Ristolainen enters them
Giroux, who entered protocols on Jan. 4, missed the past three games, all defeats.
Roughly 13 hours after the NHL postponed Tuesday night’s game between the Flyers and the Carolina Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center due to COVID-related issues affecting the Flyers, they hit the ice for a second straight day of practice.
Among those present were captain Claude Giroux, who was finally able to emerge from his basement where he isolated from his family. Giroux had been in COVID-19 protocols since Jan. 4, dating back to the tail end of their West Coast trip. The team leader in points with 29, Giroux missed three games last week in the midst of the Flyers’ five-game losing streak.
“I feel good right now,” he said. “Just conditioning, maybe one more practice wouldn’t hurt. When you don’t do anything for five, six days, it’s kind of tough to get back into practice. But today was a good practice and it’s good that we have another one tomorrow.”
While Giroux returned, the Flyers lost another player to protocols — defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. With Ristolainen’s addition to the COVID list, four of the Flyers’ top six defensemen are sidelined, including Ryan Ellis (lower-body injury, out indefinitely), and Ivan Provorov and Justin Braun (COVID protocols).
As of Tuesday morning, the Flyers have four players in COVID protocols: Provorov (entered protocols on Jan. 4), winger Travis Konecny (Jan. 5), Braun (Jan. 10), and Ristolainen (entered Tuesday). Had the Flyers’ game against the Hurricanes gone on as planned, they would have been able to produce a full lineup with 13 forwards, six defenseman, and two goalies available.
With the Flyers playing at the Boston Bruins on Thursday, interim coach Mike Yeo is “hopeful” that Konecny and Provorov will be available in time for the game.
Flyers embrace ‘blessing’ of game postponement
After playing in Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with six players in COVID protocols and Saturday’s game against the San Jose Sharks with four in protocols, the Flyers saw their game against the Hurricanes on Tuesday night postponed with four out due to COVID-19.
Defenseman Travis Sanheim, who returned from the protocols on Monday, said there was “definitely some frustration” when the game against the Penguins wasn’t postponed. However, Sanheim said the team has moved on from last week’s shorthanded games and eagerly embraced an extra practice day on Tuesday.
“This was honestly my first time getting COVID, as well,” Sanheim said Tuesday. “I didn’t have it previously. So not really sure what I was going to be expected of come the game tonight, if it would have been on. It’s obviously a blessing for a few guys here that we can get some extra days here to recover and try to get our squad back as healthy as possible.”
Yeo added that he was “quite excited” for the bonus practice day, sandwiched between practices on Monday and Wednesday before the Flyers travel to Boston. In their practice session on Tuesday, Yeo opted to focus on checking as a five-man unit in an effort to work on recovering the puck in the offensive and neutral zones.
“This is kind of the first time we’ve had a couple of days in between where we could sort of focus on some of the tweaks that we want to make to the game that we’re playing,” Yeo said.
While Yeo acknowledged that he “could see why” some may be frustrated over the inconsistency in postponements, he stressed the importance of the team embracing difficulties and not giving into excuses.
Brown out with MCL sprain
Fourth-line center Patrick Brown will miss approximately the next four weeks with an MCL sprain, the Flyers announced on Tuesday.
Late in the third period against San Jose, Brown collided with Sharks winger Matt Nieto in the neutral zone. Brown skated off to the bench under his own power while favoring his right knee and did not return to the game.
Brown, whom the Flyers claimed off waivers from the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 11, previously injured his thumb against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 16 and missed nearly three weeks as a result. Through 20 games this season, Brown registered four points (one goal, three assists) and was minus-3.