VOORHEES, N.J. – Zack MacEwen’s biggest challenge might not have been cracking Philadelphia’s starting lineup.
It was just getting to Philadelphia, period.
MacEwen, claimed by the Flyers off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks last Wednesday, had to wait nearly a week for his United States work visa papers to clear, then had to pack and jump on a night flight to Philly.
After his plane landed, MacEwen finally reached his hotel around 12:30 Wednesday morning and reported to the Flyers Training Center for his first practice about 11 hours later.
“Had some visa issues there,’’ the 25-year-old center from Prince Edward Island, Canada said after the workout. “Kind of held me up in Vancouver. It gave me more time to pack. I was kind of in limbo there to see if/when it (the visa) was going to be approved. But getting here now, meeting everybody, getting on the ice. . .I’m really pumped to be here.’’
Maybe the adrenaline from joining a new team and wanting to get started got him through his first on-ice session.
“A long day of travel,’’ he said. “It is a pretty quick turnaround. I think just the excitement of getting to a new place got me going right now.’’
Whether he will make his debut on Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center hasn’t been decided yet. Coach Alain Vigneault said he plans to issue a final verdict on Wednesday morning.
As was the case the other day with newcomer Max Willman, the Flyers chose MacEwen to lead the team stretch at center ice near the close of practice.
“The team’s great,’’ MacEwen said. “Everyone is really nice and friendly. The team is very welcoming so far. I think everyone’s done a good job of making me feel welcome.’’
MacEwen has recorded six goals/nine points over the past three seasons (55 games) with the Canucks. He took part in Vancouver’s training camp and says he’s ready to go when called upon.
If he does play, there’s a good chance he would take Willman’s spot on the Flyers’ fourth line. Willman was assigned to the Phantoms late Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t know what the decision is going to be,’’ MacEwen said.
Anytime a player gets claimed off waivers, it’s sort of a two-edged sword. On one hand, it’s tough to leave friends and relationships in a place you’ve been for quite awhile. But it’s also fun to try a new team where you know you’re wanted.
“It (leaving) was a little bit of mixed emotions,’’ MacEwen said. “I spent a long time in Vancouver the last three or four years. I was sad to leave the city of Vancouver but I’m really excited for a fresh start. A new team, new look, new colors. It’s just something that’s going to be really good for me.’’
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound MacEwen is no shrinking violet. He was impressed by the way the Flyers stood up for each other in the 6-1 rout of Seattle on Monday night. Defenseman Nick Seeler took on 6-foot-7 Jamie Oleksiak and Nate Thompson pounded the Kraken’s Nathan Bastian for taking liberties with Flyers captain Claude Giroux.
“I think early on in the season it brings a lot of camaraderie,’’ MacEwen said. “You get that bond between teammates. It’s good for chemistry. I’ve been here one day but I see what a tight group this is.’’
MacEwen described his game as “hard working, physical, direct. Play with energy, play as hard as I can.’’
Vigneault can always use players like that. The coach might even throw him into the Boston game.
“We’ll see how he reacts to his first contact practice today,’’ Vigneault said. “For a young man who’s been waiting for several days. . .he told me he was able to skate a couple times in Vancouver. He looked good today. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. If he feels alright, there’s a good chance he will be in our lineup.’’
>Ristolainen close to return
Vigneault said he will also decide if defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen will make his return from an upper-body injury on Wednesday.
It was tough for Ristolainen to watch the Flyers’ “physical’’ game against Seattle.
“Year, I wanted to jump out of the press box,’’ Ristolainen cracked. “It was fun to watch.’’
Asked if he thinks he’s going to play against Boston, he responded, “Yes, I think so.’’
>Jones to start
Vigneault surprised a few people by announcing backup netminder Martin Jones will start in goal for the Flyers against the Bruins. It will be Jones’ first regular-season game as a Flyer.
>Bruins to provide good test
No disrespect to the Flyers’ first two opponents of the season, Vancouver and Seattle, but Boston will be a step up when the Bruins hit town.
“There’s no doubt Boston has been the cream of the crop for quite some time, throughout the league,’’ Vigneault said. “One of the best teams in the last 10 years. They’ve got experience, it’s a good test for us to see where our game is. We shouldn’t shy away from the opportunity that we have tomorrow. The guys are excited. I’m looking forward to seeing where our group is.’’
>Brown’s return date
Patrick Brown, who’s been in COVID-19 protocol since being claimed off waivers from Vegas, is expected to rejoin the Flyers on Saturday. His status for the game against the Panthers is uncertain.
>Zamula healthy, back to Phantoms
Defenseman Egor Zamula was activated from Injured Non Roster and loaned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Tuesday.