The Flyers will use a makeshift lineup Thursday when they host the New York Rangers and could have one forward, Maksim Sushko, make his NHL debut. They also might use at least four players who have not played in the league this season.
With seven Flyers on the COVID-19 protocol list — and coach Alain Vigneault saying they aren’t expected to play Thursday — the team will scramble its lines against the Rangers.
Taxi-squad players such as Andy Andreoff, Sushko, David Kase, and Carsen Twarynski could make their season debuts with the Flyers. Twarynski was not able to practice Tuesday but may be at Wednesday’s practice.
All of the above players spent some time with the Flyers last season except Sushko, 22, a Belarus native who was a fourth-round draft pick in 2017. He had 11 goals in 53 games with the AHL’s Phantoms last season.
The sturdy right winger played in Russia’s KHL earlier this season and had five points in 30 games.
Kase, 24, a speedy winger from the Czech Republic, has two goals and four points in three games with the Phantoms this season. Last season, he scored a goal in a six-game stint with the Flyers.
Vigneault can put the lines together in a variety of ways.
Assuming the players on the COVID list don’t play, Vigneault’s top two lines figure to include some combination of Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl, Joel Farabee, Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, and Nic Aube-Kubel. In that scenario, Nolan Patrick would center the third line and have two new wingers.
While the Flyers are expected to be missing five regular forwards (Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, and Jake Voracek) Thursday for COVID-related reasons, their defense is relatively healthy. Justin Braun is the only Flyers defenseman on the COVID list, so the defense won’t look much different.
Vigneault said he was considering using seven or eight defensemen against the Rangers.
Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Phil Myers, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, and Erik Gustafsson are expected to be in the regular rotation. If Vigneault decides to dress more than six defensemen, Mark Friedman, Nate Prosser, and Derrick Pouliot are candidates.
The NHL announced five schedule changes involving the Flyers, with three others in the works:
Washington at Flyers, originally April 27, is now March 7 at 7 p.m.
Islanders at Flyers, originally April 25, is now March 22 at 7 p.m.
Flyers at New Jersey, originally Feb. 11, is now April 25 at 6 p.m.
Flyers at New Jersey, originally April 1, is now April 27 at 7 p.m.
New Jersey at Flyers, originally Feb. 13, is now May 10 at 7 p.m.
In addition, three other Flyers games — Feb. 9 at Washington, Feb. 14 at the Rangers, and March 7 at Boston — will be rescheduled on dates to be determined.
The NHL’s regular season has been extended from May 8 to May 10.
GM Chuck Fletcher said Monday’s originally scheduled practice was postponed at the last minute after conversations with medical officials, who said one more day was the prudent way to go. ... Vigneault said he was surprised that one of his players — he wouldn’t name him — had a positive test despite being among the most vigilant about following the virus-prevention guidelines, such as wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing his hands. ... Tuesday’s practice was run by assistants Mike Yeo and Ian Laperriere.