If the Flyers do, in fact, play the New York Rangers on Thursday, they will have to overcome a pair of obstacles: a long layoff and the absence of some players, both caused by COVID-19-related issues.
An NHL spokesman said the league plans for the Flyers to return to action against the visiting Rangers on Thursday — 11 days after their last game — and to meet Boston in an outdoor game Sunday in Lake Tahoe.
The Flyers had seven players on the COVID-19 protocol list Monday, and they have had four straight games postponed since a 7-4 win in Washington on Feb. 7.
“We have stayed in close communication with the Flyers during the last 7 to 10 days regarding the status of testing and player availability issues,” Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, told The Inquirer on Monday morning. “It continues to be our intention that the Flyers will resume the regular-season schedule on Thursday and will participate in Sunday’s game in Lake Tahoe. We will, of course, continue to actively monitor the situation.”
About an hour later, the Flyers’ scheduled practice Monday in Voorhees was postponed, apparently because of cautionary reasons.
All of the Flyers who were tested for COVID-19 on Monday morning were negative, according to general manager Chuck Fletcher.
The Flyers, who say they will practice Tuesday, have seven players on the COVID-19 protocol list: Travis Konecny, Claude Giroux, Oskar Lindblom, Jake Voracek, Scott Laughton, Morgan Frost, and Justin Braun. The list had no additions or subtractions after the NHL’s update Monday evening.
Being on the list does not necessarily mean a player has contracted the coronavirus. The player could just have been exposed to someone who has the virus.
Players need to have two negative test results over 48 hours to come off the COVID-19 list. They cannot practice, participate in games, or travel until they are off the list.
In any event, it appears the Flyers will be missing some regulars Thursday. Those available to play will be trying to shake off the rust from a long layoff.
Paul Holmgren, who spent 10 years in the NHL and is now a Flyers senior adviser, recalled his playing days and how one of his teams sat around for eight or nine days during the playoffs because a future opponent was still playing. But he noted that his team, unlike the current Flyers, was practicing.
When the Flyers practice Tuesday, it will be their first time on the ice in eight days.
“This is uncharted waters for everybody,” Holmgren said in a phone interview Monday. “The players aren’t practicing, but you hope they can get to a gym somehow, or some of them have gyms in their own homes, which is helpful. But it’s a difficult situation for everybody.”
Holmgren, the Flyers’ former general manager and club president, said he liked the way the team was playing just before its season was halted. But that there is room for improvement.
“I think they were relying too much on their goaltenders earlier,” said Holmgren, who has attended a few of this year’s games at the mostly empty Wells Fargo Center. “It’s nice to have the games and points under their belt, but I think if you read between the lines, everybody knows they need to play better, which I’m sure they will.”
The Flyers (8-3-2) may be playing some members of their taxi squad in upcoming games.
Unofficially, the Flyers’ taxi squad now includes forwards Connor Bunnaman, Carsen Twarynski, Samuel Morin, Andy Andreoff, David Kase, and Maksim Sushko; defensemen Nate Prosser and Derrick Pouliot; and goalies Alex Lyon and Felix Sandstrom.