Now the skate is on the other foot.
For last Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers, the Flyers were without a half-dozen key players, most notable Claude Giroux, due to COVID-19 protocol.
Now, for the Wednesday night rematch, Giroux is expected to return to the lineup but the Rangers will be without their No. 1 star, Artemi Panarin, who is taking a leave of absence after some problems back home with the media in Russia over an alleged assault incident some 10 years ago.
The Flyers lost that game, 3-2, in a shootout, with the tie-break game-winner going to – who else – Panarin.
And the weekend didn’t fare much better for the Flyers.
They flew all the way to Lake Tahoe, missing once again Giroux, Jake Voracek, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom and Justin Braun and promptly were hammered by the Boston Bruins, 7-3.
Philadelphia is hoping the return of Giroux, who had a 328-game ironman streak snapped by a positive COVID diagnosis at or about Feb. 8 in Washington, can turn the tables on the Rangers.
Giroux practiced for the first time on Tuesday and believes he should be good to go against New York.
“For a few days there I had it (COVID) pretty bad,’’ Giroux said. “But after three or four days I felt pretty good. I feel great now.
“Practice was good today, good pace. To get back on the ice was fun. It’s been a while since I’ve seen my teammates. Today it felt like the first day of camp or something.’’
Giroux acknowledged he had to be quarantined from his family, basically from the time he left Washington until Monday. That could not have been easy.
“At the end of the day, if you have symptoms, after a (certain) amount of time you go back to your family,’’ he said. “At the same time, you want to make sure you don’t spread it.
“I had to quarantine for an amount of time and it wasn’t great to not be a part of the family (the Giroux family had its first child, son Gavin, in August, 2019). I’m back now, so it’s good to be home.’’
Without question, it was difficult for Giroux to watch a game and not be able to play. He’s played just over 900 games in his career and missed only about a dozen.
“Watching the guys play was real tough,’’ Giroux said. “Obviously we had a lot of guys who were out of the lineup. I can’t remember the last time I watched the Flyers play at home (and was not in the lineup). I wasn’t that much fun, you want to be out there and help the team.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault said the return of Giroux should give the Flyers a boost.
“No doubt having our captain back with our group is important for us,’’ Vigneault said. “Whether he plays or not; today was his first skate. It will be a game-time decision.’’
>Frustrating for streak to end?
Giroux finished with the third-longest streak in team history, standing only behind Rod Brind’Amour’s team-record 484 and teammate Ivan Provorov’s 330, which remains active.
It had to be frustrating to see the streak end the way it did. Suffering an injury is one thing, being sidelined by a freak illness can only leave one shaking his head.
“Any time you get to play every game it’s great,’’ he said. “You want to stay healthy, you want to make sure your body is able to play all those games.
“I’m not that frustrated about it. Obviously I wanted to play but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter.’’
>Elliott likely to start
Brian Elliott, who mopped up for Carter Hart after the latter allowed six goals in two periods in the Tahoe game, is scheduled to get the start vs. the Rangers, providing he gets medical clearance.
“In theory, Brian will be playing tomorrow,’’ Vigneault said. “I just have to check one minor little thing. He had a little ‘tweak’ a little while back. I just want to make sure he’s good to go. He seemed fine today.’’
>Patrick may play at right wing
Vigneault experimented with Nolan Patrick at right wing on Tuesday at practice. Normally a center, Patrick could wind up on a line with Kevin Hayes and Giroux.
In 15 games, Patrick has two goals/five points with a minus-5.
“I wanted to help get him going a bit,’’ Vigneault explained. “He and Hayes are very close. We need Nolan to play better than he has so far.
“It’s not an easy situation when you miss the amount of time he’s missed (all of last season due to a chronic migraine headache condition). But we need to find a way to help him and help him find his game.’’
What are some things Patrick needs to improve?
“He’s a smart player, he’s always in the right position,’’ Vigneault said. “But he can make more plays than he’s making. I think he needs to be a little more involved, a little more intense in one-on-one battles, with and without the puck.’’
>Thankfully, Lindblom makes it through COVID
Lindblom appears to have made it through COVID protocol OK. The Swede spent the first seven months of 2020 battling Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
“Oskar’s feeling fine,’’ Vigneault said. “Initially he had mild symptoms. I think he’s a few days away from being able to come down and work out.’’
>Trip was fun, except for the loss
The Flyers said the Lake Tahoe setting was great from a viewing standpoint but there were issues with the ice, sun glare (at the start), altitude, wind chill, etc.
“It was pretty cool but obviously we would have liked a better result,’’ James van Riemsdyk said. “Anytime you get chance to play in outdoor games like that, it’s usually a cool experience.
“In a season like this, they’re trying to make something cool for the fans.’’