For Flyers’ Egor Zamula, a ‘dream come true’ to play alongside fellow-Russian Ivan Provorov
The Philadelphia Flyers are beat up. Six players were injured Tuesday, and from that group, only Nate Thompson returned to practice Friday.
That means Carter Hart, Cam Atkinson, Cam York, Patrick Brown, and ex-Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen will not play Saturday night in Buffalo.
The Flyers are also without center Sean Couturier, and defensemen Ryan Ellis and Nick Seeler. All are injured and are looking toward next season.
All the injuries have given an opportunity to several players, including promising defenseman Egor Zamula, who will be paired with fellow-Russian Ivan Provorov on Saturday.
Zamula said it was a “dream come true” to play alongside Provorov.
When Zamula told Provorov on Friday it was his dream ever since he signed with the Flyers as an undrafted free agent in 2018, “he started laughing and he told me, ‘I’m going to help you to play better, and teach you something. Enjoy,’ ” Zamula said.
Zamula speaks English fairly well, but he and Provorov conversed in Russian at practice because it was a “little bit” easier.
Egor Zamula calls it a “dream come true” to play alongside fellow-Russian Provy. “To me he’s the top-one or top-two Russian defenseman in the league,” he said later in the interview (not this one). #Flyers pic.twitter.com/A70j2bX4pA
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) April 15, 2022
“I watched how Provy played in the World Juniors and in the NHL,” Zamula said. “For me, he’s a top-two or top-one Russian defenseman in this league. … I think if I play with him, I learn more and it’s better for me.”
A natural lefthander, Zamula will play the right side Saturday. He has played that side a lot for the AHL’s Phantoms recently, interim coach Mike Yeo said.
Zamula, 22, said it doesn’t matter to him which side he plays.
“Just play hard every game and make some plays,” Zamula said. “Sometimes, I need to play simple. Sometimes I go jump in the offensive zone and help your forwards to score goals. But for me, I need to (foremost) play defense hard.”
The 6-foot-3, 177-pound Zamula had 29 points (four goals, 25 assists) and was plus-2 in 57 games with the Phantoms this season. He played well in Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to the Rangers, and should contend for a full-time defensive spot with the Philadelphia Flyers next season.
“I want to spend all my summer in the gym,” he said. “Work with my coaches. Maybe I stay here, maybe I go back to Russia. I don’t know my plans. It’s a tough situation in the world.”
He was referring to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Yeo liked the poise Zamula showed with the puck and how he put himself in a good position Wednesday, his second NHL game this season and the fourth in his career. He played 22:01 and had an “even” rating.
“I thought he played a really strong game,” Yeo said. “Him and Provy should be pretty excited. I heard them speaking Russian to each other out there, so the communication is good, I think. I don’t know what they were saying, but it’s good to hear them talking.”
Yeo excited to see his two Russian defensemen — Provy and Zamula — on the top pairing Saturday in Buffalo. #Flyers pic.twitter.com/GElNI4RN3W
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) April 15, 2022
Philly (23-40-11), which has 40 regulation losses for just the second time since the franchise started in 1967,and almost-as-lowly Buffalo (27-38-11) will play a home-and-home series Saturday and Sunday. Both teams are among the worst at scoring goals and allowing them.
If you a true diehard and are still following at this point (God bless you), here were the Philadelphia Flyers’ lines and pairings at practice Friday:
Line 1: Kevin Hayes centering James van Riemsdyk and Owen Tippett.
Comment: The Flyers want to see Tippett converting more of his chances. He has played well since being the centerpiece of the trade that sent Claude Giroux to Florida, but has just two goals in 13 games with the Flyers.
Line 2: Scott Laughton centering Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny.
Comment: All three are in droughts. Laughton is goal-less in his last eight games, Lindblom hasn’t scored in his last nine games, and Konecny has one goal in his last nine games.
Line 3: Morgan Frost centering Joel Farabee and Bobby Brink.
Comment: Brink has played well in his two games with the Flyers. This line doesn’t have a lot of size, but has lots of potential. Yeo thinks having playmakers Brink and Frost together will help Farabee “get to his game.”
Line 4: Nate Thompson centering Noah Cates and Zack MacEwen.
Comment: Laughton the other day singled out Cates for his strong two-way play. Cates and Lindblom alternated lines at practice. As for MacEwen, he is an old-school Flyer. On Wednesday, despite playing just 8:24, he had eight hits in his first game back since being injured in a fight with Wayne Simmonds on April 2.
Pairing 1: Provorov and Zamula.
Comment: Big Z is getting a look-see on the top pairing. At this point in the season, why not?
Pairing 2: Travis Sanheim and Kevin Connauton.
Comment: Sanheim will probably go back with Provorov on Sunday, Yeo said.
Pairing 3: Keith Yandle and Ronnie Attard.
Comment: Attard has struggled defensively, but played much better in the loss to the Rangers.
There is a chance Atkinson returns to the lineup Sunday, per Yeo. He said York was day to day, that Ristolainen is not expected to return soon, and that it’s “unlikely” Hart will play again this season. … Martin Jones will be in the nets Saturday in Buffalo, and Felix Sandstrom, who will play for the Phantoms on Friday, will likely face the Sabres on Sunday.