Flyers’ Ryan Ellis, Penguins’ Sidney Crosby out for first ‘Battle of Pennsylvania’ of the season
The in-state rivals will both be missing key players on Thursday.
While the Flyers again skated without defenseman, Ryan Ellis, news came out of Pittsburgh that both Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and defenseman Brian Dumoulin had tested positive for COVID-19.
Crosby, who is showing mild symptoms, had just made his season debut Saturday night following his recovery from wrist surgery. Dumoulin is asymptomatic. Neither was at practice Wednesday, and with the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, neither will be able to play against the Flyers on Thursday.
The Penguins are already without forwards Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust because of injury. Defensemen Marcus Pettersson and Chad Ruhwedel tested positive on Oct. 30, and fellow defenseman Kris Letang just returned to the ice Monday following 10 days of isolation after testing positive.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault found out about Crosby and Dumoulin when he spoke to the media after practice. He said that doesn’t change their own plan, especially since players can test again to make sure the results aren’t false positives. The Flyers are just focused on their own game plan.
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“We’re like any other team in the league,” Vigneault said. “We have a lineup available, and they have a lineup that’s available.”
Even if everyone remains out for the Penguins, the Flyers know they need to stay focused and not underestimate their rivals.
“I’ve watched Pittsburgh play quite a few times this year,” Vigneault said. “Even though they’ve been missing some key players at different times, they’re a team that plays real hard, real structured.”
The Flyers have been dealing with their own set of injuries, although there has been no change for anyone since Tuesday. Vigneault said Monday that if Ellis, who is the only one who has been described as day to day, practiced “full go” Wednesday, they’d talk about having him travel for the Pittsburgh and Washington games. Ellis skated in the rehab skate but did not practice with the team, so Vigneault said he will not travel.
Instead, center Kevin Hayes will travel. Hayes is not ready for game action yet — he can’t play until Nov. 10 because he’s on long-term injured reserve — but Vigneault explained with a laugh that he simply needs someone to shoot on his goalies for practice, and Hayes is going to be that shooter.
Pleased with his tweaks
For the first time since the season began, Vigneault mixed it up on the ice Tuesday night. Through seven games, he had kept all the lines and pairings the same with the exceptions of a brief switch between James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny against the Flames and any adjustments made for injuries. He also kept the special teams the same outside of injury adjustments.
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Against the Coyotes, Vigneault changed up the power-play units. He put Ivan Provorov in for Keith Yandle at the point and Cam Atkinson on the wing, moving Sean Couturier down to net front and van Riemsdyk to the second unit.
Although the power play went 0-for-3 against the Coyotes, after a day of reflection, Vigneault said he liked how the top unit performed.
“I thought they got some real good looks,” Vigneault said. “Other than finish, they did — especially the first unit — everything that they were supposed to do. They had good puck movement, good puck recovery, good opportunities at the net.”
The Flyers play the Penguins at 7 p.m. Thursday and then head to Washington for their Saturday game against the Capitals. ... Scott Laughton and Justin Braun did not practice. Vigneault said both were given maintenance days. ... Carter Hart will be in goal against the Penguins.