VOORHEES, N.J. – When two of a team’s top four defensemen aren’t practicing a few days before the season opener, questions are certain to abound.
So when both Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen didn’t participate in Tuesday’s drills, coach Alain Vigneault had some explaining to do.
It should be noted Ristolainen did skate on his own, so it doesn’t appear his upper-body injury is too serious. On the other hand, Ellis (lower-body injury) was not on the ice at all.
Also, both players finished Friday night’s final preseason game in Washington, so it wasn’t like they were seriously hurt in that game.
However, Ellis blocked a shot by the Caps’ Garnet Hathaway with 1:20 to play in the game, so that could explain the Flyer backliner’s absence.
The Flyers are still using the old “maintenance/bumps-bruises’’ excuse for keeping Ristolainen and Ellis from talking to the media. That’s up to Vigneault.
“When discussing this with the training staff, we have a couple days here,’’ Vigneault said. “Just being very cautious, expect both of them to be back on the ice on Thursday when we skate.’’
James van Riemsdyk doesn’t sound too concerned.
“I’m not exactly sure on their specific status,’’ JVR said. “They’ve been good additions for us. You can see they are going to be big elements to our team. Certainly we would hope to have them in the lineup.’’
Added Sean Couturier: “They’re two of our biggest additions (on defense). We’re excited to have them with us as soon as possible.’’
Although there have been injuries and roster moves (such as Morgan Frost returning to Lehigh Valley), van Riemsdyk is confident his line with Scott Laughton and Oskar Lindblom, along with the other lines, have had enough time to gel.
“I’ve been here for the last couple years,’’ he said. “I’ve gotten a chance to play with a lot of guys. Now I’m slotted in with guys who have been here in the past. I’ve had a chance to play with both of them. Scott and I have had some really good chemistry. I think they’re both really smart players. I think we’re getting to a place where we’re going to continue to click.’’
>Brown brings experience
Forward Patrick Brown, claimed off waivers from Vegas on Monday, was still in transit on Tuesday and could not do interviews via Zoom/telephone conference call. He’s expected to be available on Wednesday. The Flyers are not expected to practice that day.
Vigneault has also penciled the Bloomfield, Michigan native into his lineup for Friday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.
“He should be one of our 12 regular forwards,’’ said Vigneault. “We didn’t play against Vegas last year. I have a memory of coaching against him a game or two. He’s a hard-working young man, keeps his game simple, plays the body when he has the opportunity. I hear that he’s a great teammate and should fit in real well.’’
For now, it would appear Brown would move from his usual center spot over to wing. Vigneault plans to keep veteran Nate Thompson in the middle on the Flyers’ fourth line. Brown would play right wing and Nicolas Aube-Kubel would move to the left side. But that could change, with Thompson moving over to wing if the original alignment doesn’t work out.
Couturier believes Brown can be a productive addition.
“He’s been in training camp (with Vegas) and skating hard,’’ Couturier said. “I know he’s a really hard-working guy that’s tough to play against. He just battles.’’
This week of practices should have the Flyers well prepared for the start of the season, which begins with four straight home games.
“I think we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves,’’ he said. “We’ve come a long way since the first day of training camp. Getting some chemistry, getting to know our teammates better. It’s a building process and nice to see the improvement. We’re moving in the right direction.’’