As if a successful two-game road trip through Pittsburgh and Washington wasn’t enough to lift the Flyers’ spirits, the team received more good news on Sunday.
Well, sort of.
This much we know: Defenseman Ryan Ellis, mending from a two-week hip/groin injury, took part in a full practice on Sunday and looks like he’s ready for a return to action, which could come as soon as Wednesday’s home game against Toronto.
Ellis, acquired in an offseason trade with Nashville and paired with Ivan Provorov on the Flyers’ No. 1 defense tandem, was only supposed to be out for several days after initially getting hurt.
But the injury dragged on to the point where Ellis did not make the Pittsburgh-Washington trip and stayed behind to work on his rehab.
The Flyers have already been playing tight defense, having given up only three regulation-time goals in their last three games. Getting Ellis back would be a bonus, especially on special teams.
Head coach Alain Vigneault took a well-deserved day off on Sunday at the Flyers Training Center so assistant coach Mike Yeo filled in at the post-practice press briefing.
Yeo didn’t come right out and say Ellis is good to go but he used words like “promising’’ to describe the situation.
“He was out there pushing it,’’ Yeo said. “That’s by far the most he’s been able to do. Even just talking to him he felt really good. The next step would be getting cleared medically and making sure conditioning-wise. . .it’s not where it needs to be but certainly today was the most promising day I’ve seen to get the workload in.’’
Nick Seeler has been doing a bang-up job as a fill-in. He could be headed back to the Phantoms which would be a sign Ellis is ready to go.
“I coached against him for a long time,’’ said Yeo, head coach of the St. Louis Blues before Craig Berube took over. “You want your defensemen to play in control. He’s always managing the game the right way, understanding there’s a time and place to make a skill play, make a play to the middle of the ice, allow you to have a strong exit, maybe with control and other times where you just need to relieve pressure and get the puck out.’’
Combined with Provorov, it’s a pretty savvy unit.
“He (Ellis) consistently makes those reads,’’ Yeo said. “The defensive poise that he has both with and without the puck, whether you’re up 1-0 late in the game or early in the game, he brings that consistency every night. That’s what makes him so solid.’’
>Brassard receives NHL fine
Derick Brassard was sitting on the Flyers bench Saturday night when Washington’s Garnet Hathaway happened to skate by. Maybe Derick doesn’t like the name Garnet but for whatever reason, the Flyer took a swing at Hathaway and connected, getting a $2,000 fine for his actions.
>Flyers-Warriors sweep titles
The Flyers-Warriors team, composed of former U.S. military personnel who are physically or emotionally challenged from their service time, hosted the USA Warrior Classic this weekend and took titles in all three tiers. The Warriors are coached by former Flyer defenseman Brad Marsh.
>Defense helps goaltenders
Through 10 games, the 6-2-2 Flyers have been getting some sensational goaltending but the netminders give a lot of credit to the team’s defensemen. They’ve been clearing the crease, blocking shots, keeping shooters to the outside, etc.
“There have definitely been a lot of positive signs,’’ Yeo said. “A lot of things coming into last offseason we wanted to focus on in terms of getting back to the defensive game we felt we were so strong at two years ago, in particular defending in front of the net, making sure the goalies know where the shots are coming from. We’re giving them the best chance to make the saves they need to make.’’
Kevin Hayes, out all season due to abdominal surgery, continue to ramp up his practice activities. He’s eligible to come off IR on Wednesday although the Flyers aren’t saying whether he will play.
“He’s doing really well,’’ Yeo said. “It’s great to see him back. He adds so much to our group. For him to be on the road with us this last trip I thought was really important for him and our group. He just makes it fun to come to the rink. Now to see him getting close to returning, when we get a player of his caliber back, he’s going to make us a much stronger team.’’