VOORHEES, N.J. – There have been some famous nicknamed hockey lines over the years – from the Legion of Doom, to the LCB, to the French Connection.
But if you went down the list of the 100 most clever monikers, you probably couldn’t come up with one as bizarre and off the charts as the Flyers’ new “COVID Line.’’
The origin of the trio’s designation was unveiled at Friday’s practice at the Skate Zone when Flyers coach Alain Vigneault welcomed back Jake Voracek, Scott Laughton and Oskar Lindblom from a two-week COVID-19 protocol quarantine and put them together on the same line.
There’s nothing humorous about the pandemic but at least with things starting to brighten a bit, those on the ice could afford a smile or two.
All three are expected to play when the Flyers visit the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, 1 p.m.
It begins a brutal six-games-in-nine-days stretch for the Flyers, so getting Voracek, Laughton and Lindblom back was a welcome sight.
In addition, defenseman Justin Braun is expected to return from his own COVID isolation.
The only regular not ready would be Travis Konecny, who has to finish up his quarantine period.
Vigneault knows he will need all hands on deck for this trying stretch. The Flyers play back-to-back in Buffalo this weekend, then three tough games in Pittsburgh before returning for a home game against Washington on Sunday, March 7.
“It’s the ‘COVID line,’+’’ Vigneault said with a chuckle after practice ended. “Jake was able to skate yesterday (Thursday). . .I liked the way (Kevin) Hayes’ line, ‘Coots’ (Sean Couturier) line and (Connor) Bunnaman’s line played last game. . .they (Voracek, et al) all want to get out there and play.’’
“So I would say unless something happens tomorrow (before the game), the ‘COVID Line’ will be together.’’
Vigneault reported that Lindblom, who recently got over a battle with Ewing’s sarcoma (a rare form of bone cancer), experienced very few symptoms from COVID.
“We’re starting a sequence of six games in nine nights,’’ Vigneault said. “Those guys are going to get themselves back into game shape and their timing by playing right now.’’
Voracek said the 14-day quarantine was pretty boring. A lot of “Call of Duty’’ video game playing and watching the Australian Open on TV in the middle of the night.
“It feels good to be back with the boys,’’ Voracek said. “To be locked in a room for 14 days is no fun. It’s not easy, especially when there’s nothing wrong with you (injury-wise).’’
Voracek is hoping to get his skating legs under him as soon as possible.
“I felt really good today, surprisingly,’’ he said. “Two weeks off, you just have to prepare for it, work your butt off and hopefully find a way to get on the scoreboard and help the team win.’’
>Getting fans back soon?
With New York and New Jersey opening their sports arenas, albeit with limited crowd size, the Flyers are looking forward to when a small number of fans can return to the Wells Fargo Center.
Maybe sometime in March?
“I mean it’s huge,’’ Vigneault said. “From our time in the (Toronto) bubble (for the 2020 playoffs), to our first 15 or 16 games, none of them have been played in front of our great fans.
“So to have them able to come back, starting with smaller numbers and getting to full capacity will be great for us – the atmosphere, the energy that they bring. I am really looking forward to it. You just want to make sure everyone is safe.’’
Added Voracek: “It would be amazing. That is what we play for, right? We got used to playing without the fans so I’m sure the first couple games I would say some of us are going to be nervous. It’s exciting. I think everybody is excited to get to the normal life a little bit.’’
>Flyers lost gamble on Friedman
The Flyers wanted to keep veteran defenseman Nate Prosser on the roster, so they had to put rookie Mark Friedman on waivers the other day.
They lost the gamble when Friedman was picked up by Pittsburgh.
“We knew we were taking a risk,’’ Vigneault said. “But we wanted the possibility of maybe playing Prosser. So to do that, we had to make Mark available.
“He’s a good young player,’’ Vigneault said. “We wish him nothing but the best. I talked to him after he got picked up. He was excited.’’
>Goalie rotation announced
Vigneault said Brian Elliott, who picked up the victory in the Flyers’ 4-3 win over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night, will get the start for Saturday afternoon’s game and Carter Hart will start the Sunday matinee game against the Sabres.
>Patrick getting used to right wing
Nolan Patrick, normally a center, moved to right wing on the Hayes-Claude Giroux line and said the transition was not all that difficult.
That trio will be together for at least the start of Saturday’s game.
“It’s not the toughest transition when you’re playing with guys like ‘Hayesy’ and ‘G.’ I think we just kind of read off each other. I think I can play there (right wing) when they need me to.’’
Patrick said he’s feeling fine. He missed all of last season due to a chronic migraine headache condition.
“I feel good, it took me a while to find my game,’’ he said. “The last couple games I feel like I’ve been trending in the right direction. Playing with more confidence, getting closer to the top of my game.’’