VOORHEES, N.J. – Now comes the tough stuff.
Granted, the Flyers did play two heavyweights, Boston and Florida, during their recently completed season-opening four-game homestand.
But now they’re headed west to play the triumvirate of 5-0-0 Edmonton, plus Vancouver and Calgary in the space of four days. The three teams have a combined record of 10-3-2.
Coach Alain Vigneault knows his 2-1-1 Flyers will have their hands full and he’s not sure if one of his best defensemen, Ryan Ellis, will be available to play.
Ellis did take part in the first two-thirds of Monday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center but officially is still listed as dealing with a lower-body injury that’s been bothering him for the better part of a week.
Vigneault also isn’t sure of the status of forward Patrick Brown, who has to finish up a 14-day COVID-19 quarantine before he can set foot on Canadian soil. Brown was not on the team’s charter flight to Edmonton on Monday afternoon but is expected to be available at some point in the three-game span.
The Flyers did beat the Bruins and held a lead on Florida until late in the second period before losing, so they acknowledge they are off to a pretty encouraging start.
Now, a tougher test might be the Oilers, who possess a lethal power play, leading the NHL at 47.2 percent as of Monday.
“We’re playing a team which hasn’t lost a game yet,’’ Vigneault reiterated. “The Great One (Wayne Gretzky) said the other day on TV that their power play is better than the one that they had when they won those Cups. That says a lot about their specialty teams.’’
Vancouver has already beaten the Flyers, 5-4, in an opening night game decided by a shootout. And Calgary is off to a quick start as well.
“I’m really looking forward to this trip,’’ Vigneault said. “Because we’re going to be in hockey mode. Three games in four nights, that’s going to be our total focus. The quality of these teams on the road is going to be a good measuring stick where we are. I know we need to continue to improve, there are some areas of our game we need to improve. I like where we are right now and I like the fact we’re playing that type of opposition and see if we can come up with a couple big wins.’’
As for Ellis, the Flyers would love to have him back. If he can’t go, Nick Seeler once again will step in.
“He (Ellis) is day-to-day but he skated this morning and felt good as far as the feedback I got coming off the ice,’’ Vigneault said. “So he will come with us to Edmonton and skate tomorrow and I’ll have a decision on Wednesday. Everything is progressing as we expected.’’
Technically, Ellis is still considered injured so he was not made available to the media for comment.
Brown would be thrilled to finally get a chance to make his Flyer debut. It all depends on paperwork.
“I do expect him there on Wednesday,’’ Vigneault said. “Right now, because of the COVID situation, there are no American cities that are flying directly to Edmonton. So he can only come on Wednesday, that’s his 14th-15th day (of quarantine), so we’re going to have to get him through Toronto, that’s the only route to go. I’m hopeful he’s there for the morning skate on Wednesday.’’
The Flyers have enjoyed a pretty good record in back-to-back games the past couple years. Their first of the season comes with the games against the Oilers and Canucks on Wednesday-Thursday. Philadelphia is among the leaders in back-to-backs on their schedule this season. Vigneault says these quick turnarounds aren’t bad if they aren’t bookended by a lot of other games.
“There’s no doubt if the travel is reasonable and you get in (to the second city) at a reasonable time, then fatigue should not be an issue,’’ Vigneault said. “If you get four games in six days or five in seven, then the fatigue factor and the travel comes into it. For this road trip, they’re all short trips, we’re going a day early to get used to the different time zone. I don’t see this back-to-back any more challenging. You find out where your game is, where your execution is and that’s what we’re going to get.’’
The Flyers’ penchant for taking penalties can’t continue against Edmonton. Philly took seven against Florida and all the kills wore them down.
“We can’t possibly go into Edmonton and take seven penalties,’’ Vigneault said. “We can’t do that.’’
>Atkinson a shorthanded threat
Cam Atkinson’s shorthanded goal against Florida on Saturday was the 17th of his career. Since 2010-11, he has the third-most shorthanded goals, trailing only Brad Marchand’s 26 and Andrew Cogliano’s 18.