The Flyers’ offense needs a jolt, but left winger Oskar Lindblom won’t be ready to play in Game 5 Tuesday night against the New York Islanders, according to head coach Alain Vigneault.
Losers of two straight for the first time since early January, the Flyers trail in the series, three games to one, and are trying to fight off elimination.
Lindblom has spent most of the season battling a rare bone cancer, and he hasn’t played since Dec. 7.
“I will say that Oskar’s working extremely hard to get back to help our team,” Vigneault said in a Tuesday afternoon Zoom call with reporters. “He will take warm-ups tonight, but I think we’re still a few days away here. But he’s closing in.”
Lindblom skated with the team Tuesday morning and has been working in the gym every day.
“I’ve rarely seen a young man put himself through what he’s putting himself through right now,” Vigneault said. “He already had to put himself through everything to get healthy. Now, the steps that he’s taking to do everything he can to come back as quick as he can – and healthy, and in shape – is amazing.”
Forward Michael Raffl, who has quietly been one of the Flyers’ most productive postseason performers when healthy, also took part in Tuesday’s morning skate, but Vigneault wouldn’t say if he would return to the lineup. (Raffl did not take part in pregame warm-ups Sunday, a sign he was probably injured.)
Despite playing in just seven of the team’s 13 postseason games, Raffl is tied for second on the Flyers with three goals, and he leads the team with two game-winning tallies.
He can play center or wing and, if healthy, is a candidate to replace Derek Grant, who has no goals and two points in 13 postseason games. Grant had 15 goals in 56 regular-season games with Anaheim and the Flyers, but he has been ineffective in the playoffs.
Carter Hart is expected to return to the nets Tuesday, as is the Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov.
“I don’t think I can make a poor choice,” Isles coach Barry Trotz said, mindful that backup goalie Thomas Greiss was excellent in Game 4, his first playoff start since 2016.
Vigneault, who said the Flyers have lost momentum by occasionally having some long shifts in the series, believes his players have a “beautiful opportunity” to extend the series.
Playing an elimination game “should bring out the best in players, and I’m confident in our group,” he said. “We’ve responded well. I thought we responded well last game. We didn’t get the win, but we certainly played well enough to win.”
He was referring to a 3-2 loss in Game 4. The Flyers played well in the last two periods, but struggled mightily in the first period, when they were outshot by an 18-2 margin after taking the first five shots. They allowed nine shots on an Islanders’ power play and lost their momentum.
Isles coach Barry Trotz said his team will have to match the Flyers’ desperation level Tuesday.
“The fourth win is always the toughest, and you have to have a little bit of killer instinct in you,” he said.
Vigneault mentioned that Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, each of whom are goal-less in the postseason, were on the Flyers when they overcame a 3-0 series deficit against Boston in 2010.
At that time, they were like several young players on this year’s team, Vigneault said, mentioning Joel Farabee, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov, and Phil Myers.
“They definitely found a way to contribute,” Vigneault said. “Now it’s their turn to put the big-boy pants on. ... It’s a great opportunity for those guys to step to the forefront. Grab this opportunity.”