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Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen absent from practice; why Flyers claimed Patrick Brown

Ellis and Ristolainen are still expected to be ready for Friday's opener.

Flyers defenseman Ryan Ellis skates against the Boston Bruins in a preseason game on Monday, October 4, 2021 in Philadelphia.
Flyers defenseman Ryan Ellis skates against the Boston Bruins in a preseason game on Monday, October 4, 2021 in Philadelphia.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen’s “maintenance” kept them from practicing Tuesday for the third straight day.

Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said both defensemen are just being cautious with their “bumps and bruises” ahead of the season opener, when he expects both to play. Since the Flyers start late, with their first game Friday, they can afford to be cautious.

Ellis, who has been skating with Ivan Provorov on the top defensive pair, is dealing with a lower-body injury. Ristolainen, Travis Sanheim’s partner on the second pair, has an upper-body injury.

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The two first missed practice Saturday, the day after a physical preseason game with the Washington Capitals in which both played the entire game. They didn’t practice Sunday, either, and then the team had Monday off. When the Flyers returned to Voorhees on Tuesday, Ellis was nowhere to be seen. Ristolainen, however, was out with Kevin Hayes (abdominal injury) for his rehab skate.

Forward James van Riemsdyk said he isn’t sure about either one’s status, but he hopes they’re both back in time for the opener.

“They’ve been good additions for us,” van Riemsdyk said. “You can see they’re going to be big elements for our team. Certainly, we hope to have them in the lineup.”

Dark-horse Brown claims forward spot

As the Flyers preseason came to an end, Garrett Wilson and Jackson Cates emerged as the top contenders for the 12th and 13th forward spots.

They were the only two forwards left up with the NHLers following the cuts on Oct. 6. In the final exhibition game, it appeared Wilson had the edge when he made the game roster over Cates.

But when the Flyers submitted their opening-night roster Monday, neither Wilson nor Cates was among the list of names. Instead, “Patrick Brown” had been written in. Hours before the roster was due, the Flyers claimed Brown off waivers from the Vegas Golden Knights.

“At the end of the day, when the staff, the management and the scouts analyzed it, they felt Brown was a little ahead of those guys at this time,” Vigneault said.

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The Flyers did not play against the Golden Knights last season, so they aren’t very familiar with Brown. Van Riemsdyk said he knew little about him other than he, like so many other new Flyers, is tight with Hayes.

“That A on his jersey might stand for assistant GM,” van Riemsdyk joked.

Sean Couturier does not know Brown well either, but said he did know that Brown is a hardworking guy who’s hard to play against. Vigneault remembers coaching against Brown once or twice and had the same impression. From everything he has heard about Brown, he thinks he’ll fit well with the locker room.

Vigneault envisions using Brown initially as one of the Flyers’ regular 12 forwards. He said he still needs to talk to general manager Chuck Fletcher before deciding if Brown will play right wing with Nate Thompson staying in the middle and Nicolas Aube-Kubel sliding to the left or if he will play center with Thompson moving to left wing. He also looks forward to having Brown play on the penalty kill.

“I’m anxious to see his first practice with his teammates and for us to get a real close look, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about this young man and we’ll give him a chance to show what he can do with the Flyers,” Vigneault said.