The Flyers’ stretch of inactivity has been extended because of the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
Their game Sunday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden has been postponed, the NHL announced Wednesday night. The Flyers aren’t scheduled to play again until Feb. 18 against the visiting Rangers, which would be their first game in 11 days.
They then don’t play until Feb. 21 at Lake Tahoe against Boston.
Sunday’s postponement will be the Flyers’ fourth straight game temporarily erased because of COVID-19 protocol. No makeup dates have been set.
The Flyers are expected to reopen their Voorhees training facility and return to the ice for practice Monday, the league said.
The Flyers’ game Tuesday in Washington was postponed because of “an abundance of caution while the league continues to analyze test results in the coming days,” the NHL said in a statement.
That game was postponed after the Flyers’ Claude Giroux and Justin Braun were added to the COVID-19 protocol list, joining Travis Sanheim. Being on the list does not necessarily mean the players have the coronavirus, but they could have been exposed to someone who has it.
No other Flyers were added to the COVID list when it was updated Wednesday evening.
With taxi-squad members and extra players available, the Flyers could have replaced Giroux, Braun and Sanheim and had a 20-man team Tuesday. But Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, confirmed the game was shut down over concerns that some Flyers who tested negative could test positive in the coming days because of the people they were around.
“Whenever, based on all facts available to us at the time, there is a material risk of an outbreak situation of exposures, one or more games will be postponed,” he said.
The Flyers’ scheduled home games with New Jersey on Thursday and Saturday had been previously postponed because of an outbreak among Devils players. The Devils had 17 players (down from 19) on the COVID-19 protocol list that was released Wednesday evening.
The Flyers, who got a hat trick from Scott Laughton in a 7-4 win Sunday in Washington, are off to an 8-3-2 start in what the league hopes will be a 56-game season. Because of the coronavirus, the number of games played by teams has fluctuated greatly. New Jersey, for instance, has played just nine games — seven fewer than Vancouver in the season’s first month.
There is a growing chance that not every team will be able to play 56 games this season, which figures to cause the playoff qualifiers to be determined by points percentage, as was done in the shortened 2019-20 campaign.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere contracted the coronavirus before the season and was the first Flyers player on the COVID-19 protocol list. General manager Chuck Fletcher also had the virus. Gostisbehere and Fletcher have recovered and are back with the team in their capacities.
All players who test positive must be placed in isolation and contact tracing then begins.
If a player tests positive and is asymptomatic, he can come out of isolation upon the passage of 10 days since the first positive test, provided the individual has remained asymptomatic during the entire period. Physicians must also conclude that the player no longer presents a risk of infection to others.
If a player tests positive and is symptomatic, he can come out of isolation if at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, and at least 24 hours have passed since the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and symptoms like a cough or shortness of breath have improved. The player must also have tested negative twice and have a doctor declare him free from infecting others.
In addition, all players who tested positive must be cleared by a cardiologist screening and a team doctor before returning.