It’s tough enough when you’re the 19th man on an 18-man game-night skating player roster, but throw in trying to stay ready in today’s health environment and it’s an even greater challenge.
For example, take Flyers rookie forwards Connor Bunnaman and Carsen Twarynski.
Both had brief auditions with the Flyers this season but spent most of the time with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Now, with the Phantoms’ season canceled due to the pandemic and the Flyers in need of a “reserve’’ squad for the planned upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs, youngsters such as Bunnaman and Twarynski must get themselves ready to play again, even though there’s no guarantee they will.
Both were doing just that at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. on Tuesday.
“My expectation is to skate, do my best out there and if my name is called, be in the lineup if someone gets hurt,’’ Bunnaman said during an interview with the Flyers’ public relations department. “Which I hope doesn’t, I hope everybody stays healthy. I just have to be ready. Not much else I can do. Be ready.’’
Actually, Bunnaman was ready all the way back in early October when, to the surprise of many, he made the opening night roster for the game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague, Czech Republic.
Playing fourth-line center, Bunnaman competed in four of the first five games, then was returned to Allentown until a call back on Jan. 13. He played in 17 straight games before he was returned after the Feb. 25 trades for Derek Grant and Nate Thompson.
Twarynski also earned a spot with the Flyers for the season opener after an impressive training camp. He stuck around for six games, went to the Phantoms for five, then was called back for eight more with Philly. After Nov. 16, he played only one more with the Flyers.
“Make sure you’re ready,’’ was Twarynski’s response to the question about preparation. “We (including Bunnaman) have both had experience in games this year. In terms of our capability and knowing what we can do, I think we’re pretty comfortable with that.
“I think games are going to be high-paced, energetic. With no fans, teams have to build their own energy. I think it might be a step up from what it normally is. I think we’re both excited, looking forward to the opportunity, whether we get to play or not.’’
Bunnaman (6-foot-1, 207 pounds) notched only one goal in 21 games with the Flyers but was a commendable plus-7. The 22-year-old center from Guelph, Ontario, Canada was a fourth-round (109th overall) pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Twarynski (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) also registered only one goal with the Flyers in 15 games and was a minus-2. The 22-year-old left wing from St. Albert, Alberta, Canada was a third-round pick (82nd overall) in the 2016 draft.
The two players agree they have little in the way of health concerns coming to the Skate Zone each day.
“When I came out here, part of my decision was because we’re in one of the safest facilities we could be in no matter where we are,’’ Twarnynski said. “I think they’ve taken very good care. . .there’s numerous testing every week to make sure we’re negative. If there are any situations, they handle it right away. I feel safe here.’’
Added Bunnaman: “Everybody has been taking good care of us and everything the league has told them to do to keep us safe they’re spot on. I feel safe every time I come to the rink. The staff is keeping everything clean. It’s a perfect atmosphere for the situation we’re in. They’re doing a really good job.’’
As for the prospect of possible living a month or two inside a hub city playoff “bubble,’’ neither player worries much about that either.
“It’s going to be different,’’ Bunnaman acknowledged. “No fans changes a lot of things. Being cooped up is going to be hard. I know we have our video games so we’re going to do all right I think. Try to make the most of it.’’
Twarynski sounds a little more upbeat about being shut off from normal everyday life.
“Honestly, for me, this whole experience, it’s kind of cool in a way,’’ he said. “It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing. The games will be a lot different. It will be a lot different atmosphere, a lot of different scenery on how the set-up is. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a cool experience as much as it would be nice to have a normal playoff but I think it will be one to remember.’’