After playing against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday with six players in COVID-19 protocols, the Flyers are gradually — and eagerly — welcoming players back to their lineup.
Defenseman Nick Seeler and forward Jackson Cates, who entered protocols on Monday, came off the COVID list on Saturday in advance of the game against the San Jose Sharks. With Cates out of protocol, the Flyers assigned him to the active roster from the taxi squad. In turn, they returned defenseman Egor Zamula and forward Connor Bunnaman to the taxi squad.
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When Seeler tested positive during the Flyers’ West Coast trip, he said he was asymptomatic. The following day, Seeler said he felt a little tired and achy, but his symptoms improved after that.
“When I tested positive, I was obviously very frustrated because I knew I was going to have to miss at least two games,” Seeler said before Saturday night’s game. “Thankfully, I’m able to play tonight. But I think that goes for pretty much every guy who gets it is going to be frustrated, especially if you’re asymptomatic and you test positive and you have to sit out three games or so.”
The NHL’s modified protocol states that if an individual has no symptoms or their symptoms are improving after five days, they can leave isolation and rejoin their team with a negative PCR test or two negative molecular point of care tests. Thus, Cates and Seeler were able to rejoin the team five days after entering protocols.
Back in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 1 against the Los Angeles Kings, Seeler figures to resume his penalty-killing responsibilities and to play on the second defensive pairing with right-shot Rasmus Ristolainen for the first time. For the majority of this season, Seeler has played out of his natural position, the left side, while paired with Keith Yandle.
“[Ristolainen] brings that physicality that I enjoy, as well,” Seeler said. “So I think we’ll feed off each other nicely, and I’ll get back on the left side, which will be good as well.”
Captain Claude Giroux, defensemen Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, and forward Travis Konecny comprise the four Flyers still in COVID protocols. If all four are asymptomatic, test negative, and meet the requirements outlined by the NHL’s modified protocol, they could each be available to play in the Flyers’ next game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
Brassard out injured, again
After making his return to the Flyers’ lineup on Thursday night for the first time since Dec. 8 while dealing with a hip strain, forward Derick Brassard showed up at the facility the following day and, according to interim head coach Mike Yeo, he “didn’t feel good.”
Now, Brassard is considered “day-to-day” and will miss Saturday night’s game. This is the second time that Brassard has entered and exited the lineup after one game.
On Dec. 8 against the New Jersey Devils, Brassard re-entered the lineup for the first time since his game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 23, when he initially sustained the injury. Against the Devils, Brassard re-aggravated the injury and was forced to sit out for nearly a month.
“I’m hopeful and optimistic that going forward we can put a good plan in place,” Yeo said. “And when he does return to play, again, I think that — I talked to him today — I’m going to very much make sure that he has a practice before he gets in there.”
Goalie Martin Jones (13 games played, .906 save percentage, 3.36 goals against average) will start in net against the Sharks, his former team of six seasons. Jones did not play in San Jose on Dec. 30 because he started the night before against the Seattle Kraken.