On Friday, center Scott Laughton received the news that he had been cleared to return to game action, three weeks after he sustained a concussion against the Florida Panthers.
However, with back-to-back games against the “big, heavy” Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers on deck that weekend, interim coach Mike Yeo said he decided to give Laughton a little more time to prepare for his reintroduction to the lineup. No amount of lobbying from Laughton would change his coaches’ minds.
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“I was telling them I was ready,” Laughton laughed. “I packed a bag for New York just in case.”
Laughton will return Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was the first player out on the ice at morning skate, eager to get ready for his first game back since March 10. Laughton slotted in on the third line at center alongside left winger Noah Cates and right winger Travis Konecny.
“He’s pretty jacked up,” Yeo said. “I know he was telling [assistant coach] Darryl Williams that he had trouble sleeping last night.”
Two days after Laughton sustained the concussion in Florida, he said he started to feel better. However, Laughton didn’t pass his concussion test about a week and a half later in St. Louis.
He and the team have approached his return with caution due to his previous concussion history.
“You never want to mess with a head injury or anything like that,” Laughton said. “But definitely felt good from two and a half weeks ago on.”
Since Laughton exited the lineup last month, the Flyers added several new players to their ranks, including Cates, defenseman Ronnie Attard, and winger Owen Tippett. Laughton has become acquainted with them around the facility, but he acknowledged “it’s a little bit tougher” to build relationships when he isn’t with them on the ice for games.
Now, those young players will have the opportunity to observe an in-game Laughton, who averaged .79 points per game in the 24 games leading up to the the concussion.
“[With] the departure of G [Claude Giroux], we’ve talked a lot about leadership and guys stepping up and Laughts all year, for me, has been a guy who’s really emerged as a leader for our group,” Yeo said. “One of our more vocal guys. Obviously real competitor, the way he plays the game.
“His commitment to play the game hard at both ends of the ice, it’s real good for especially our young guys coming in, for them to have the chance to see him play like that and play with him.”
Frost promoted to top line
With Laughton back in the lineup, Yeo decided to move Joel Farabee back to left wing on Tuesday. The 22-year-old Farabee played the last seven games at center following the trade-deadline departures of centers Derick Brassard and Giroux.
In those seven games, Farabee registered four goals and two assists, primarily alongside James van Riemsdyk and Cam Atkinson. The Farabee-at-center experiment isn’t necessarily finished, and Yeo said he was pleased with Farabee’s performance in the role.
“Joel did some good things,” Yeo said. “The way the game’s played today a lot, Joel’s still gonna end up down low in the defensive zone quite often. But it’ll free him up a little bit. Maybe he won’t have to do some of that heavy battling down low and get on the attack in offensive situations a little bit more.”
Morgan Frost will center the top line with Farabee and Atkinson, a promotion from Frost’s recent usage as third-line center.
Frost has three points (one goal, two assists) in his last 12 games since his most recent recall from the Phantoms on March 12. However, Yeo has been impressed with how much more often Frost is getting the puck on his stick.
“For me, it’s the way he’s attacking in the neutral zone with speed right now,” Yeo said. “He’s recognizing open ice, and he’s jumping into those holes in the offensive zone. He’s quick to get on pucks. He’s quick to get guys off his back. And he’s quick to skate on first touch, which allows him more opportunity to play with the puck, to possess it in the offensive zone and to create good looks.”
Carter Hart (43 games, 3.11 goals against average, .907 save percentage) will start in net against the Blue Jackets. ... After spending the last two games as a healthy scratch, defenseman Keith Yandle will return to the lineup on the third defensive pairing alongside Attard. Yandle, 35, saw his historic 989-game ironman streak come to an end on Saturday. ... Defenseman Nick Seeler (lower body) is considered “week-to-week” and may not play again this season, per Yeo. Seeler exited Saturday’s game against the Leafs in the third period after making a hit and taking a fall. ... Winger Zack MacEwen sustained a “head” injury, according to Yeo, in a fight against Leafs forward and former Flyer Wayne Simmonds. Yeo did not have a timeline for MacEwen’s return . ... The Flyers loaned forward Hayden Hodgson to the Phantoms. Hodgson registered a goal and an assist in five games.