VOORHEES – The last thing the Flyers needed was long-term injury absences of two of their star players.
So there was a collective sigh of relief on Tuesday morning when general manager Chuck Fletcher announced that both Jake Voracek, who had a 242-game ironman streak snapped on Saturday at Long Island, and Nolan Patrick, who suffered a head injury in that game, could be on the mend shortly.
Fletcher issued a medical update stating that Voracek (lower-body injury) will see a doctor on Wednesday for evaluation and “we hope to get him back on the ice by Thursday.’’
Patrick, who skated on his own Tuesday, got injured on a freak play early in the Islander game. He was dumped to the ice in front of the New York net, then got hit in the back of the head by a Cal Clutterbuck shot.
The resulting cut required stitches. Patrick went through NHL concussion protocol but did not return to the game.
“(Patrick) is a possibility for tomorrow’s game (vs. Washington at the Wells Fargo Center),’’ Fletcher disclosed. “He will be re-evaluated tomorrow. We hope for him to rejoin the team on Thursday for full participation.’’
Added coach Scott Gordon: “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.’’
Heading into Tuesday night action, the Flyers were five points out of the Eastern Conference wild card standings, trailing Montreal and Pittsburgh (which has a game in hand).
Even if Voracek and Patrick can’t play against the Caps, the Flyers feel confident they can pick up the slack.
They’ve already weathered a host of goaltending injuries/changes in the past 21 games and come away with a 16-3-2 record.
“I think every team goes through those challenges throughout the year,’’ Sean Couturier said after Tuesday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “It’s no different for us. You have to step up. . .it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up.
“We have kind of that next guy in line mentality. It doesn’t matter who is in or out.’’
The Flyers recalled Justin Bailey from the Phantoms on Tuesday.
Gordon reconfigured his lines in this practice. He had Couturier centering Claude Giroux and Oskar Lindblom on the top line, Scott Laughton centering Michael Raffl and Travis Konecny on the second, Corban Knight centering James van Riemsdyk and Ryan Hartman on the third and Bailey with Phil Varone on a shortened fourth line.
The coach said he will stick with the seven-defensemen lineup he used in Sunday’s 4-1 win at the Island.
No doubt, the Flyers will have to find a way to get it done against the defending Stanley Cup champions without Voracek and possibly Patrick.
“They’re big pieces to our team,’’ Giroux said. “We’re not too sure what’s going on with those two, but the best thing we can do right now is worry about Washington.
“Whether Patty or Jake play or don’t play, it’s about playing as one unit and taking care of business.’’
Finding line chemistry will be key here. Even when the Flyers are healthy, Gordon likes to move people around. Now he’s doing so out of necessity.
“Practice today was kind of weird,’’ Giroux said. “We’re missing a lot of players. We know the position we’re in right now. These two points tomorrow are going to be huge for us.
“We need to find chemistry and we need to find it fast.’’
Gordon seems to find the right matchups for each opponent. Like his players, the coach is also breathing a little easier knowing Voracek and Patrick will be back sooner than later.
“We can’t afford to lose anybody,’’ Gordon said. “But Jake certainly brings a lot to us offensively on the power play. Hopefully, we cross our fingers, get good news on Thursday and he’s on the ice Friday.’’
The versatility and flexibility of the Flyers’ lineup comes into play here.
“I think it’s the consistency with systems play,’’ Gordon offered for reasons why the Flyers don’t seem to miss a beat. “If everybody is in the right position, it shouldn’t matter who is on the ice.
“Obviously, there’s chemistry that guys develop over the year but given that we’re in a situation where we have some injuries, we have to adjust on the fly here.’’
>Hart, Neuvirth updates
Fletcher issued the following report on rookie goaltender Carter Hart, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury since Feb. 22: “He is skating, doing very well. He will not practice with the team today (Tuesday) but if everything goes well with him on the ice and off the ice today, he will join the team for the morning skate tomorrow (Wednesday).’’
Neuvirth, on long-term IR with a lower-body injury, is still in limbo. Fletcher: “He continues to progress and will have a follow-up appointment with the (team) doctor on Friday.’’