After a month of rehab, rest and solitary skates, Derick Brassard finally made it back into the Flyers’ lineup. The next day, he was missing from the ice.
“He’s been dealing with a lingering issue,” interim coach Mike Yeo said. “We came back from this trip and he had been skating. He’d felt good. Went into the game last game, and today, he didn’t feel good. So I would call him doubtful. I’d call him day-to-day and we’ll go from there.”
This is the second time Brassard returned only to find out he wasn’t ready. Brassard injured his hip on Nov. 23 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He rested two weeks before returning for the Flyers’ Dec. 8 game against the New York Rangers. He played the entire game, but didn’t feel good the next day and went back into rehab.
Brassard was set to return after Christmas, but he tested positive for COVID-19. After his quarantine, he was supposed to join the team on the West Coast for the Jan. 4 game against the Anaheim Ducks, but they determined he should continue his recovery in Philadelphia until the Flyers returned home.
Yeo said he wanted to see Brassard participate in a practice before putting him back into the game. But after the fifth and sixth players tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, they needed another player.
“In a perfect world, would’ve had the opportunity to get him in there and compete and battle and get involved with the group,” Yeo said Thursday. “No. 1, we don’t have the bodies. No. 2, we haven’t had the practices. I think that we’ve had three practices since I’ve taken this position. Three full practices just the way this schedule has been. So unfortunately, we’re not living in a perfect world right now and he’ll be in tonight.”
Brassard had three shots on goal, two of which were good scoring chances, played on the power play for 2:20, and logged 16:40 of game time.
In addition to Brassard, two other Flyers have returned from injury this season only to go back into rehab a game or two later. Ryan Ellis (lower body) had to sit after one game. He still has not returned. Kevin Hayes (abdominal) made it two games before going back into rehab. He returned on Dec. 1 and has been in the lineup since.
Time to process
Immediately after the Flyers’ 6-2 loss to the Penguins, Yeo wasn’t ready to give the team a message about moving forward. He wanted some space to think before addressing their fourth straight loss.
After gathering his thoughts, Yeo spoke Friday about the struggles the Flyers have faced this season. Since Yeo took over for Alain Vigneault on Dec. 6, the Flyers lost two games, broke their 10-game losing streak, went on a seven-game point streak and finished with a four-game losing streak.
They’ve struggled with inconsistency, but Yeo said that isn’t completely surprising. Right as they built momentum, they were sent on an extended break. When they came back, they were missing key players because of COVID-19. Since then, player after player has been sent into COVID-19 protocols, adding a burden to the already difficult injury situation.
“That’s going to make things more difficult when you have guys like Coots [Sean Couturier], G [Claude Giroux], Provy [Ivan Provorov], Hartsy [Carter Hart], Scotty Laughton, you can go through the list of who we have out of the lineup,” Yeo said. “But obviously, how we responded at that time has also not been something that we should feel real good about.”
» READ MORE: Photos from the Flyers loss to the Penguins
The Flyers struggled to overcome obstacles even when some of the impact players were in the lineup. They have won just two of the 17 games in which they gave up the first goal.
“Those are not good stats, to not be able to come back from games,” Justin Braun said. “It’s going to happen. You’re going to give the first goal.”
Braun also acknowledged the difficulties the team has faced, adding that they’ve had few chances to practice under their new coach. But he also said they can’t make excuses. Instead, they have to improve their work ethic, work on the little details, and “not look at the scoreboard.” Then, maybe, they can start to play how they want to play.
“We have to establish our game, what Philadelphia Flyer hockey is, what it looks like, what it feels like, and then we’re going to have to fight through these times where something might not go wrong,” Yeo said. “Keep pushing, keep doing it, and then you’ll see that you get some results and then you’ll start to build confidence.”
The Flyers will play the San Jose Sharks at 7 p.m. Saturday. Former Shark Martin Jones will be in goal. Yeo made it clear that this has been the plan and is not a result of Carter Hart’s performance against the Penguins. ... Cam Atkinson took a maintenance day Friday. “He’s good to go for [Saturday],” Yeo said. “He plays so hard. He’s been giving so much.” ... Yeo had not heard back about whether Nick Seeler and Jackson Cates tested out of quarantine. Both were on day five and can return if they test negative. To be safe, Yeo is working with the lineup he had at practice, plus Atkinson.