The Flyers returned to practice Tuesday in Voorhees but had just 16 players — 14 skaters and goalies Carter Hart and Brian Elliott — who were able to participate. It was the team’s first time on the ice in eight days, and more players will be able to practice Wednesday.
That was the good news.
The bad news: Coach Alain Vigneault said he didn’t expect the seven players on the COVID-19 protocol list to be able to play Thursday against the visiting New York Rangers. (Being on the list doesn’t necessary mean a player has contracted the coronavirus.)
That means the Flyers will be without six regulars, including forwards Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Jake Voracek, Oskar Lindblom, and Scott Laughton. Defenseman Justin Braun is the other regular who will miss the game. The other player on the COVID list, center Morgan Frost, is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury.
The shortage of players — four of the Flyers’ top seven point producers will be sidelined — will make it challenging to compete against the Rangers.
“It shouldn’t be difficult to be competitive. It’s just the next-man-up mentality,” center Kevin Hayes said Tuesday after practice. “We’re obviously down some important players, but I think everyone’s going to compete, whether you’re a regular in this lineup or you just got called up and you’re playing your first game. ... Everyone in this locker room’s going to compete their hardest and give it their all. I think we’ll be fine.”
Four players from the taxi squad were among the 14 skaters Tuesday: Forwards Andy Andreoff, Maksim Susko, David Kase, and defenseman Derrick Pouliot. All could be in the lineup against the Rangers.
“Guys are going to have to jump on the opportunity and make the best of it,” Vigneault said.
Others on the ice Tuesday: Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Nolan Patrick, Ivan Provorov, Hayes, Michael Raffl, Joel Farabee, Connor Bunnaman, and Mark Friedman.
Some players not on the COVID-19 list — such as James van Riemsdyk, Sean Couturier, Phil Myers, and Nic Aube-Kubel — were not at practice, but it seems as if they will play Thursday.
General manager Chuck Fletcher said some players started their quarantines at different times because of various factors, accounting for why they weren’t able to be on the ice Tuesday. He expects eight more players to be at practice Wednesday.
Fletcher said the Flyers (8-3-2) should have a full roster, numerically, for Thursday’s game. In other words, 20 players will dress, but the lineup will be without several key forwards.
Vigneault, who confirmed Giroux had contracted the coronavirus, said some of the players had minor symptoms and some had none.
“Let’s hope the ones that do get it stay healthy, which is what has happened so far, and let’s hope that this is it and we get back to playing some hockey,” Vigneault said. “We’ve got four games that we’ve got to make up in a very condensed schedule already. We’ve got basically very limited practice time to get ourselves ready for Thursday and then we’ve got to fly five hours to Lake Tahoe to go play a noon game [Sunday against Boston]. So not a lot of time, but it is what it is. We’ve got to deal with it and we’ve got to deal with it head-on.”