Rasmus Ristolainen, Zack MacEwen finally ready to make Flyers debuts, pending final approval Wednesday
The Flyers also welcomed Kevin Hayes back to practice and sent Max WIllman back to the Phantoms.
Rasmus Ristolainen is ready to leave the “day-to-day” tag behind.
The defenseman, who made an early impression on Flyers fans with his hard-hitting style in preseason, wanted to “get in there” for the season opener, but the training staff decided it would be smarter for him to sit out. Ristolainen said he agreed that was the right decision, but the upper-body injury he suffered at the end of preseason has lingered longer than anticipated.
“Day-to-day has turned out to be almost a week now,” coach Alain Vigneault joked Monday when Ristolainen participated in the morning skate but didn’t play against the Seattle Kraken.
Sitting in the press box watching his teammates battle the Kraken was hard for Ristolainen, who said he hasn’t had to deal with injuries much throughout his career. When the gloves started dropping, Ristolainen had to restrain himself.
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“I wanted to jump out of the press box and get in there, but the boys did a good job,” Ristolainen said.
However, at practice Tuesday, he was paired with Travis Sanheim, signaling a change in his status. Ristolainen skated on the second pair with Sanheim through the preseason. When he initially returned to practice Sunday, he skated with Keith Yandle because he wasn’t game-ready, and Vigneault wanted to keep Sanheim with his temporary game partner, Justin Braun.
Ristolainen believes he’s ready to finally make his Flyers debut, but Vigneault wants to check in with the trainers Wednesday morning before he dresses Ristolainen for the game.
Pending, pending ... approved
On Oct. 13, Zack MacEwen learned the Flyers had claimed him off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks. Then he was left in “limbo.”
As a Canadian who had played for a Canadian team, MacEwen did not already have a U.S. work visa. For five days, he waited for the government’s approval.
The wait was frustrating, but it gave him time to come to terms with the range of emotions — sadness about leaving his teammates behind and excitement for a new opportunity. He went through all those feelings as he watched the Flyers lose to his former team in overtime in their season opener.
» READ MORE: Tom Sestito wants his experience with pain meds to be a lesson for the NHL's next generation
The wait also gave him time to pack, he said jokingly, yet completely seriously. Finally, on Monday, MacEwen was given the go-ahead and caught a late-night plane to Philadelphia.
When practice started Tuesday, he and Nate Thompson were skating side-by-side on the fourth line with their dark hair flowing out of their helmets. He skated on the right wing with Nic Aubé-Kubel on the left. Max Willman, who played in the first two Flyers games, also skated on the fourth line. He took the left side and Aubé-Kubel switched back to the right.
After practice, the Flyers announced that Willman was loaned to Lehigh Valley.
Vigneault said, from the brief exhibition he saw of MacEwen at practice, he seems to be as advertised.
“We obviously saw the big body today and we saw the skating part, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow and if he feels all right, there’s a real good chance he’ll be in the lineup,” Vigneault said.
Kevin Hayes, who is recovering from abdominal surgery and is on long-term injured reserve, skated with the team for the first time since his injury. Hayes is eligible to return from injured reserve on Nov. 10. ... The Flyers are still waiting for Patrick Brown to come out of COVID-19 protocols. Vigneault said he expects him Saturday. ... The Flyers return to the Wells Fargo Center for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. Martin Jones will be in goal for the Flyers as part of their regular goaltending rotation. He was briefly a Bruin for four days in 2015, but never played for them.