With no preseason games to prepare for the NHL’s regular season, there seemed like little time to get ready for when the real stuff began.
In other words, injuries were bound to happen, or so it would seem.
The Flyers are finding this out the hard way. First they lost top center Sean Couturier to a rib injury.
Then center Morgan Frost and defenseman Phil Myers went down in Tuesday night’s game against Buffalo.
The Flyers announced on Thursday that Frost suffered a dislocated left shoulder. He is out indefinitely and will be placed on Injured Reserve.
Myers suffered a fractured rib and is listed as week-to-week, meaning he also could miss an appreciable amount of playing time.
The Flyers will use spare forward Connor Bunnaman to replace Frost for Thursday night’s game at Boston against the Bruins.
Bunnaman will take Scott Laughton’s place on the fourth line with Michael Raffl and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Laughton will be promoted to a higher line.
Coach Alain Vigneault said Mark Friedman will be brought in off the taxi squad to fill in for Myers. He will be paired with Robert Hagg.
During a Thursday morning media Zoom call from Boston, Vigneault was asked if the short training camp and lack of preseason games might be playing into the injury situation.
There are some who believe the absence of preseason games may be affecting players’ split-second timing and resulting in what would usually be avoidable collisions.
“Injuries are part of it, next man up,’’ Vigneault said.
“It’s very hard to say exactly why (about short preseason being cause for injuries). At the end of the day, injuries are part of the game, you have to deal with them. Every team has them. Hopefully you get your reasonable share under control and they’re not too serious.’’
Losing this many players can test a team’s depth. The Flyers have lost their best forward and one of their top four defensemen. Fortunately, they have some reserves with a little NHL experience.
“We’re in a ‘next man up’ moment right now,’’ Vigneault said. “We’ve got some guys that have wanted an opportunity to play. They’re ready to do their part to help us win.’’
Bunnaman, 22, played in 21 games for the Flyers last season, recording a goal and an assist with an impressive plus-7. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Ontario native was a fourth-round pick (109th overall) in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
“I thought ‘Bunny’ was the most improved player in camp this year,’’ Kevin Hayes said. “He was flying out there, he looked unbelievable. He’s getting this opportunity and I think he’s going to be a great player.’’
Friedman, 25, was a third-round pick (86th overall) in the 2014 draft. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Ontario played in six games for the Flyers last season. He also played in 45 games for the Phantoms, posting three goals/15 points with a plus-2.
Being a right-handed shot, Friedman can fit right in to replace the right-handed shooting Myers.
“Coming into this season, we had high expectations for Mark from what we saw last year,’’ Vigneault said. “We liked the ‘bite’ that he brought. He was extremely hard as far as competing and battling.
“This year I would say his camp was just OK. We made that very clear to him. He’s picked it up since then. Even though he hasn’t had a chance to play, he’s been waiting for this opportunity, so I expect him to play real hard.’’
Friedman signed a two-year, one-way contract extension back on July 13 which will pay him an annual salary of $725,000.
“Camp wasn’t great,’’ Friedman admitted. “But I’ve been practicing and sticking with it. It’s been a long time since I played a game. I just have to keep it real simple.’’
Will having already played six NHL games help steady the nerves?
“Absolutely, and signing that two-year contract as well,’’ he said. “I definitely will feel a little more confident for sure.’’
>Gostisbehere skating again
Shayne Gostisbehere, who’s been quarantined due to COVID-19 protocol and has not played in a game yet, has been skating on his own, according to Vigneault.
“My understanding is he skated yesterday (Wednesday),’’ Vigneault said. “I think he will be skating on his own back in Philly and our next practice back in Philly (over the weekend), I would expect him back.’’