PHILADELPHIA – While the season is down to its last 36 games, the Flyers are still hopeful of getting Nolan Patrick back at some point.
The 21-year-old center has missed the entire campaign due to a chronic migraine headache condition but he continues to do daily workouts and still remains patient that he will be cleared for contact work at some point.
“I do expect him to play this year,’’ Chuck Fletcher said at Tuesday’s press briefing at the Skate Zone. “It’s just my guess, I’m purely speculating there. He’s been skating harder, skated again today, getting his heart rate up higher. Feeling a bit better.
“It’s hard to predict. Once we get more information and he’s cleared for contact, we’ll let everyone know. He’s progressing but there’s no clear path as to where this will go.’’
Patrick was slated as a third-line center behind Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes this season. Losing him has hurt the Flyers in their lower lines.
“It’s certainly impacted our depth a little bit,’’ Fletcher said. “We have a lot of young players and we’re asking a lot from them right now. Every team has injuries so I really don’t like using that as an excuse.
“I don’t think you anticipate having a young player that you thought would be a big part of your team really not be available to you. That certainly has been difficult.’’
Adding to Patrick’s value is that he’s a righthanded shooter. The only other righthanded faceoff man on the roster is Claude Giroux.
“We have only one right shot centerman (Giroux),’’ Fletcher said. “If you take a penalty, most teams have more than one right shot centermen. They get to choose the side of the ice to take the faceoff from.
“He (Patrick) is a young player, we still think he has a real good future ahead of him. Speaking with a lot of the medical people, they anticipate him coming back. So that’s why I’m optimistic he will.’’
Fletcher was asked if he would consider making a deal at the trade deadline (Feb. 24) for another center.
“It’s pretty hard to find another Nolan Patrick, a 21-year-old with that kind of skill set,’’ the GM said. “They don’t fall off trees. There’s not a lot. We’re looking at what we can find out there.’’
Losing both Patrick and Oskar Lindblom (battling a rare form of bone cancer) probably cost the Flyers about 50 goals. So that makes a trade tempting.
“You’re always looking to see if you can improve your team,’’ Fletcher said. “You’re always on the phone talking to teams. I don’t know if it makes sense to pay a massive price for a rental. I don’t think that’s the right move for this group.
“If we can add a forward that can help our team, sure. But where are we going to be in six months or 12 months. You’re always looking at what you’re giving up to get.’’
>Hart leaves practice early
Goaltender Carter Hart left practice early on Tuesday and the Flyers weren’t sure of his status for Wednesday night’s game at St. Louis.
Hart was scheduled to be backup to Brian Elliott. Coach Alain Vigneault disclosed Hart might have suffered a lower-body injury. The team hoped to have some sort of official diagnosis late Tuesday afternoon.
“He felt a little something in the lower body region,’’ said Vigneault. “As far as I know, after the game last night (Monday night, a 6-5 shootout win over Boston), everything was fine and everything was fine this morning.
“So I’m not quite sure what happened between the time they were warming up the goalies. I stepped on the ice and two minutes later he was stepping off.’’
>Braun almost ready
Fletcher revealed that defenseman Justin Braun (groin) could be back in time for Saturday’s home game against Los Angeles.
Also, Shayne Gostisbehere underwent knee surgery on Tuesday. It was deemed a success and he should be ready for a Jan. 31 game at Pittsburgh.
>Thoughts on Lindblom
Fletcher provided an update on Oskar Lindblom, fighting a rare form of bone cancer.
“I just know he’s undergoing treatments,’’ Fletcher said. “I wasn’t here the other day, we had our scouting meetings. I was out of town, so I wasn’t at the rink when he came by. I know everybody was excited to see him. At some point we’ll leave it to Oskar and his camp.
“With a situation like this, when it’s your personal health and non-hockey thing, you always want to be careful with what you say. The treatments are going and I know he’s got a great attitude. But it’s probably pretty early in the process to have that kind of update. At some point, depending on what Oskar’s thought are, hopefully we can make that available.’’
Fletcher hopes to have Lindblom back next season.
“I hope so,’’ he said. “I pray to God for that. Obviously, for him to return to play hockey, that means he’s in great spot in his battle. We’re just keeping our hopes up. I’m sure he’s got a lot of things on his mind right now. But if he’s playing hockey this time next year that would be a great conclusion.”