Flyers’ Kevin Hayes enters COVID-19 protocols; Carter Hart returns after non-COVID illness
Hayes becomes the third Flyers player to enter COVID protocols, joining Morgan Frost and Max Willman.
Moments before the start of practice on Monday, center Kevin Hayes skated off the ice and walked back to the Flyers’ locker room.
Following the conclusion of practice, general manager Chuck Fletcher confirmed that Hayes was pulled after test results placed him in COVID-19 protocols, where he joins forwards Max Willman, Morgan Frost, and two team staffers.
“Clearly there’s a surge going on right now in the world and we’re all dealing with it,” Fletcher said. “We’re doing the best we can with protocols. We’re back to where we were last year in terms of masking and physical distancing.”
Given Hayes’ sudden absence, interim coach Mike Yeo adjusted his plan for Monday’s practice on the fly. With center Sean Couturier taking a maintenance day as he deals with both lower- and upper-body injuries, center Patrick Brown skated on the top line as a placeholder alongside wingers Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny.
Scott Laughton filled in at center in Hayes’ spot on the third line. James van Riemsdyk skated on the right wing and Konecny, taking an extra rep, skated on the left.
“I can tell you that the practice that we were going to have, it was going to be a great one today,” Yeo said. “But obviously, we had to make some adjustments that, based on the number of guys that we had, we couldn’t run some of the drills that we wanted to do.”
The Flyers will need to call up a forward from the AHL Phantoms in advance of Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Capitals to assume Hayes’ spot in the lineup if he is unable to play. As of Monday afternoon, the Capitals have four players in COVID-19 protocols.
The game is one of three in the NHL still scheduled for Tuesday — seven were postponed because of COVID-19 positives around the league.
Hart returns to practice
After missing Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators with an undetermined illness, goalie Carter Hart was present for practice. While Hart did not test positive for COVID-19, Yeo said that Hart had a “rough” 36 hours battling an illness.
In turn, Yeo stressed that the team “has to be smart” about Hart’s usage as he gets back into playing condition after sitting out for a couple of days. Yeo will wait until Tuesday to decide if Hart or backup Martin Jones will start against the Caps.
With Hart’s return, the Flyers sent goalie Felix Sandström down to the Phantoms. Sandström was recalled on an emergency basis and backed up Jones against the Senators.
Provorov: ‘Tough’ to miss Olympics again
On Sunday, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association announced that it would continue on with the 2021-22 season as planned despite a spike of COVID-19 cases across the league.
However, because the league must reschedule more than 40 games postponed because of positive tests, the prospect that the NHL will allow its players to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing is becoming less likely. Instead, the 2½-week Olympic break tentatively scheduled for February could be used for makeup games.
The league is expected to come to a decision with the NHLPA on the Olympics in the coming days. Russian defenseman Ivan Provorov acknowledged that there’s “a lot of things that are unclear” regarding the current “situation” both in Beijing and with the NHL season.
“I want to go,” Provorov said. “I think the previous Olympics I had a chance to go [but the NHL would not allow its players to participate]. This Olympics, I think I have a good chance of going. So to miss two chances to go to the Olympics would be really tough.”
Provorov declined to expand on the specifics of what he views as “unclear,” citing a desire to keep current discussions between the NHL and the NHLPA private for now.
Forward Derick Brassard (hip strain) is skating and is considered “day to day,” according to Fletcher. The Flyers hope to get him back for Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins or after the holiday break. ... Phantoms forward Wade Allison sustained an elbow injury Friday, per Fletcher, who did not share a timetable for his return. ... Defenseman Ryan Ellis (lower body) is “week to week” and has been skating a little bit, Fletcher said. The team is hopeful Ellis will be closer to playing after the holiday break. ... With Yeo at the helm for the interim, Fletcher said he’s “not actively interviewing other people or speaking to other people” to take over as head coach. “I’m trying to get this group playing to their potential and trying to climb back into the race and see what we have, see what kind of team we can become,” Fletcher said. “That’s the focus right now.”