The Philadelphia Flyers got a little bit better Monday when Travis Sanheim returned from the COVID-19 protocol list and was placed on the top defensive pairing at practice in Voorhees.
But three other key players — center/winger Claude Giroux, right winger Travis Konecny, and defenseman Ivan Provorov — remained on the COVID list. In addition, defenseman Justin Braun was placed in the COVID protocol.
In short, these are not fun times for a team that has lost five straight.
Right winger Cam Atkinson tried to put on a brave face.
“We’re not going to use this as an excuse,” said Atkinson, who leads the Flyers with 14 goals. “We just have to keep getting better and push each other.”
The Flyers are also missing Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, Derick Brassard, and Nate Thompson, all of whom are injured. Peter Brown (lower-body injury), who was in a collision in Saturday’s loss to San Jose, was added to the injured list Monday.
Sanheim left practice early, but interim coach Mike Yeo said the team didn’t want him to overdo it and that he will play “some big minutes” Tuesday, when the Flyers (13-15-7) host powerful Carolina (24-7-2) and will be heavy underdogs.
Yeo said Giroux, Konecny, and Provorov were still in COVID protocol, “and there’s a chance we may see one or a couple players” in the lineup Tuesday. “We’re still waiting on a couple results here.”
Added Yeo about his depleted roster: “It’s my job to not get frustrated and to not let the team get frustrated, but it’s not easy because we did feel we were making some progress as far as trying to build the game we wanted to play. Individual players were having some success, and the team was starting to see some results.”
The absence of players “makes it difficult not to get frustrated, but we can’t allow that to happen. We have to continue to work at our game.,” Yeo said.
Yeo said the Flyers “did a lot of good things” in their 3-2 OT loss Saturday to San Jose, but they allowed too many scoring chances — Philly was outshot, 47-31 — and blew a 2-0 third-period lead. “… We’re still putting ourselves in a position at times where we have to continue to work so hard to make up for a mistake that we didn’t have to make.”
Here were the lines and pairings at Monday’s practice:
Line 1: Scott Laughton centering Joel Farabee and Atkinson.
Line 2: Kevin Hayes centering Max Willman and Oskar Lindblom.
Line 3: Morgan Frost centering Gerry Mayhew, with no left winger.
Line 4: Jackson Cates centering Connor Bunnamn and Zack MacEwen.
Defense: Sanheim and Rasmus Ristolainen; Cam York and Nick Seeler; Keith Yandle and Kevin Connauton.
Goalies: Carter Hart and Martin Jones.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) January 10, 2022
Defenseman Samuel Morin, 26, is making slow progress from knee surgery and has not begun skating again, per Yeo, who said the hard-luck player is not expected to play this season. With all the injuries and illnesses, the Flyers could have used a healthy Morin.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Morin underwent right knee surgery Sept. 10 and was expected to miss six to eight weeks, the team announced in the fall. That timeline has obviously changed dramatically.
James van Riemsdyk’s wife, Lauren, gave birth to their second child, William (Liam), and the winger missed practice. … Yeo said Morgan Frost was short on confidence at the moment, and the young center agreed. …. Hayes lauded his housemate, Yandle, for playing through pain during his long streak of consecutive-games played (957, seven away from tying the NHL record). “It’s been an honor being his friend and teammate,” Hayes said. … Couturier probably won’t play this week and has had some up and down days, Yeo said. … Egor Zamula was an extra defenseman. … Brady Skjei has four goals and seven points over his last five games for Carolina, which is on a 5-0-1 run and has points in 10 of its last 11 games.