Mindful of pandemic, Flyers’ GM will instruct players not to let guard down

Flyers will continue to follow safety protocols when season opens.

Playing in a bubble like the Flyers did in Toronto during last year’s playoffs is one thing.

Competing in different NHL buildings and traveling from city to city is quite another.

Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher believes the Flyers players have been through so much due to the pandemic, they’re not about to let their guard down now.

In a Wednesday media conference call, Fletcher acknowledged he will address the team at some point to remind them to stay smart, stay safe.

“We’ll meet with the team,’’ Fletcher said. “The NHL and the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players’ Association) also have a power-point presentation that we watched prior to going into the bubble in Toronto.

We’ll show it again this year. It’s always good to remind people what the rules are.’’

The Flyers have made it a point to strictly follow CDC protocols, such as taking the temperatures of all players, coaches and visitors (such as media) before entering the team’s practice facilities at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.

The same can be expected over at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly when NHL play begins.

“The players understand, they get it,’’ Fletcher said. “They understand how important it is to stay out of harm’s way, stay healthy so we can complete the season. We’ll work closely with everyone to make sure they have all the information they need.’’

Fletcher said some of the old NHL travel rules have been suspended. Teams are now allowed to bus into places like New Jersey the day of the game if preferred.


>Lindblom ready, optimism for Patrick


Fletcher said Oskar Lindblom enjoyed a good offseason, continuing his recovery from Ewing’s sarcoma (a rare form of bone cancer).

Also, Nolan Patrick has been skating and exercising with hopes of returning to action after missing all of last season due to a chronic migraine headache condition.

“Oskar is doing really well, he was cleared to play in the (Toronto) bubble,’’ Fletcher said. “He played two games in there. Since that time, he’s had a tremendous offseason. He’s been able to rebuild his body and regain some of the muscle mass he lost.

“He’s in really good shape physically. When the players get their physicals in early January, we’ll find out if there are any issues.’’

If Patrick can return, it would be a big boost to the Flyers’ lineup. Most scouts, coaches project him to be a steady 20-goal scorer if he can regain good health.

“I watched him skate today (at the Skate Zone/Voorhees, N.J.),’’ Fletcher said. “He’s an amazingly talented young man.

“He feels good. We’ll wait for the doctors to meet with him for the preseason physical. I can’t make predictions on anybody but I think we’re in good shape going into camp and we’re excited to get these two players back.’’


>No more big moves anticipated


According to Fletcher, the Flyers have pretty much set their roster, meaning they won’t be making any more big free-agent signings (they did ink defenseman Erik Gustafsson) or trades.

“I would anticipate this is our roster,’’ Fletcher said. “We’re not entertaining any free-agent signings at this time. You never know with trades, it’s been relatively quiet, at least from our point.

“We like our team. We have a little bit of cap space to make adjustments as we may need to. Let’s see what we have in camp, let’s see how they perform.’’


>Taxi squad alignment


Due to the pandemic situation and the uncertainty surrounding the American Hockey League (Lehigh Valley Phantoms), the Flyers can carry up to six extra players on their roster.

Fletcher indicated the taxi squad will be a mix of prospects and possibly a few experienced players (such as defenseman Mark Friedman). There will be one goalie on the taxi squad.

“I think it’s based on our health and who makes the 23 (regular roster players),’’ the GM said. “I think we’ll use the taxi squad to kind of complement the roster in the best way possible.’’

The AHL hopes to get going in early February which would make things a little easier on everybody.


>Short shots


Fletcher said no players will have travel issues, i.e. quarantine concerns, getting to camp on time (Jan. 3). Most of the players are already in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area. . .With the retirement of Matt Niskanen, one candidate for more playing time on the penalty kill is defenseman Phil Myers. Fletcher believes he can evolve into that role.


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About Wayne Fish 2444 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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