The Philadelphia Flyers are set to return to action on Thursday night against the New York Rangers. However, the Flyers roster will be a bit thin as they’ll be missing several players.
Chuck Fletcher said that “after what we’ve been through the last week, our hope is that we will have a full roster for Thursday and Sunday” in terms of 18 skaters and two goaltenders. Alain Vigneault answered with a simple “no” when asked if the players on the COVID list would be available Thursday.
That means that Justin Braun, Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, and Jakub Voracek will be missing from the Flyers roster. Those are some big names to be missing from the lineup.
Giroux, Konecny, and Voracek are undoubtedly top-six forwards for the Flyers – or at least top-nine forwards. Laughton and Lindblom are also important to the squad in depth roles. Braun has been disappointing this season, but you never want to see someone out. He was one of two defensemen (Ivan Provorov) to play in all 13 games this season for the Flyers. The Flyers will ice yet another defensive combination on Thursday night.
This will be the first game that Giroux has missed since the regular-season finale in 2016. He has played in 328 straight games since then. In fact, Giroux has been incredibly durable throughout his career. Giroux has just missed 10 games since the start of the 2009-10 season. He played in 858 of 868 games through last Sunday.
Voracek has been quite the workhorse as well. He missed just 17 games since joining the Flyers in the 2011-12. Voracek played in all but four games (all in the 2018-19 season) in the past five seasons.
But the games play on, with or without Giroux and Voracek.
Next Man Up
The Flyers are sticking with a “next-man-up mentality” through their COVID absences.
“It shouldn’t be difficult to be competitive,” Kevin Hayes said. “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. There’s no questions asked whether you’re supposed to compete or not. Everyone in this locker room’s going to compete their hardest and give it their all. I think we’ll be fine.”
The Flyers’ taxi squad has expanded due to the COVID protocols.
“The six can temporarily increase,” Fletcher said. “If a player that’s loaned to your taxi squad is required to have a period of isolation or quarantine due to COVID protocols, you can exempt that player temporarily and replace that player.”
A few new skaters were on the ice for practice Tuesday, including David Kase and Maksim Sushko. Both forwards joined the taxi squad on Monday.
Vigneault spoke about the opportunity for the players moving up to the Flyers roster and up in the lineup.
“Guys are going to have to jump on the opportunity and make the best of it,” he said. “We should have a full practice tomorrow with the group that is available to us, and that will be the group that is going to play against the Rangers on Thursday.”
Practice Makes Perfect?
The Flyers only had 16 players on the ice for practice Tuesday. There were 10 skaters and two goalies on the active roster in Connor Bunnaman, Joel Farabee, Mark Friedman, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Kevin Hayes, Nolan Patrick, Ivan Provorov, Michael Raffl, Travis Sanheim, Carter Hart, and Brian Elliott. Four members of the taxi squad – Andy Andreoff, David Kase, Derrick Pouliot, and Maksim Sushko – were also on the ice.
Fletcher expects the rest of the healthy players to join the team on Wednesday.
“We’ve been in a league-mandated quarantine for the past seven or eight days. However, not every player has the same quarantine start date, depending upon various factors, contacts, etc,” Fletcher said. “We have a group of players that were eligible to return to the ice today and we have another, I believe, eight that will be allowed to practice tomorrow.
Looking at the roster and players on the COVID list, that leaves Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Sean Couturier, Erik Gustafsson, Philippe Myers, and James van Riemsdyk as five of the regulars that should be on the ice Wednesday.
The Flyers will have to make do with the healthy players they have available to them for Thursday night’s game against the New York Rangers. Hopefully, they’ll have a few more players available for Sunday at Lake Tahoe, but that remains to be seen.
Photo Credit: Heather Barry Images