Second-line center Kevin Hayes is getting close to returning to the Philadelphia Flyers’ lineup for the first time since Jan. 17.
Interim coach Mike Yeo said Hayes will give the Flyers better matchups because of his 6-foot-5, 216-pound frame, and will bring a lot to the special teams.
The question is, after so many surgeries, is it too risky to bring him back for the meaningless home stretch?
The Flyers and their doctors don’t think it is, so if Hayes has another good practice Friday, there’s a chance he is in the lineup Saturday afternoon against visiting Chicago.
Getting Hayes confidence that he can stay on the ice, injury-free, the Flyers believe, is the best course to take, and that it will help him in the 2022-23 season.
The Flyers, it should be pointed out, have had several players suffer a recurring injury shortly after they returned to the lineup this season.
Hayes, 29, had two abdominal surgeries before before the season. In January, he had another procedure to drain fluid from the adductor region.
Last month, general manager Chuck Fletcher said Hayes may need “some additional work” (read: more surgery) to get him ready for next season.
That, apparently, is on hold, because Hayes has been skating on his own and with the team.
There’s a chance Hayes plays in Saturday’s matinee against Chicago at the Wells Fargo Center. It all depends on how he looks at Friday’s practice.
“As far as our next practice, I’m going to put him on a regular line and see what he looks like,” interim coach Mike Yeo said on Wednesday. “I think that’s a big thing here. There’s a difference between being cleared to play and being ready to play as well, conditioning-wise.”
Yeo said there’s “no better way to get into game shape than playing games yourself. (But) we want to see where he’s at in a real practice. Obviously, he’s a guy we’d love to get back. He’s a guy who — size-wise, energy-wise, the ability to create offense, the ability to be hard to play against in the D zone — has a lot of those attributes, so it would be nice to have him.”
Defenseman Keith Yandle, Hayes’ housemate and close friend, says the big center has been more upbeat lately because he is getting close to playing.
“When you’re not playing, you’re not in the best mood,” Yandle said after Wednesday’s practice in Voorhees, “and you can just tell in the last week or two weeks, you can tell when he’s skating good on the ice and feeling good about himself, it changes your whole aspect about life and the way you go about your day. It’s obviously nice seeing him out there. He brings joy to everyone.”
Yandle said it “says a lot” about Hayes that he’s worked hard to get back and “be a part of this group. It says a lot about his character and the type of teammate he is.”
In 20 games with the Flyers this season, Hayes has nine points (three goals, six assists) and a minus-12 rating.
Last season, Hayes had 31 points (12-19) in 55 games. The previous year, his first with the Flyers, he energized the team with his play (23 goals, 41 points, 69 games) and kept the locker room loose with his outgoing personality.
Off the ice, Hayes has also had to deal with the shocking death of his brother, Jimmy, a former NHL player who died Aug. 23.
Injury-prone Wade Allison, the hard-nosed right winger who has been sidelined by an MCL sprain, is also getting close to returning. The team hasn’t decided yet if he will play with the Philadelphia Flyers or the Lehigh Valley Phantoms when is ready.
Open to trades?
Backup goalie Martin Jones and Yandle said they weren’t paying attention to rumors they could be dealt before the March 21 trade deadline.
Yandle would have to waive his no-trade clause to be dealt.