Flyers discuss return dates for Ellis, Hayes

Kevin Hayes could be back in the lineup for next Tuesday's game vs. Calgary.
      VOORHEES, N.J. – Reinforcements are on the way.
      The question is when.
      Both Flyers defenseman Ryan Ellis (hip/groin) and center Kevin Hayes (abdominal surgery) went through full practices at the Flyers Training Center on Tuesday, raising speculation about a timeline for their return.
      Coach Alain Vigneault didn’t completely rule out Ellis for Wednesday night’s home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
      Hayes, who was eligible to come off IR on Wednesday, won’t be back until next Tuesday’s home game against the Calgary Flames at the earliest.
      “They’re both progressing nicely,’’ Vigneault said after practice. “Ryan obviously is ahead of Kevin. The earliest I see Kevin playing possibly would be next Tuesday. In Ryan’s case, I said three weeks ago that he was day-to-day so I would say there’s a chance in the near future. We’ll see how he responds. . .this was his second team practice but more drills like you see in a regular game. We’ll see how he responds and make the decision accordingly.’’
      The Flyers embark on a two-game road trip beginning Friday in Carolina and finishing Saturday at Dallas. Those promise to be tough matches so getting Ellis back would be beneficial.
      “Ryan will only go on the road if he’s going to play one of the two games,’’ Vigneault said. “Or both, possibly. I’m not saying that he won’t play tomorrow, but he’s a definite no for the two games on the road, he won’t make the trip.’’
      When Ellis does return, Vigneault plans to ease him back into action, limiting his ice time and not putting him on the No. 1 defense pairing with Ivan Provorov.
      If Ellis cannot go vs. Toronto, the Flyers will go back to Nick Seeler, who was recalled from the Phantoms on Tuesday afternoon.
      “I feel a lot better,’’ Ellis said. “I think the process has been longer than I hoped but it’s making progress and that’s a good sign. I’ve never dealt with it. It happened the last preseason game (at Washington). I played the first (regular season) games and the third one it failed me.’’
      Hayes has been fully cleared to practice and take contact. He hasn’t been cleared medically yet.
      “We’re at about the seven-week mark (of a six-to-eight-week projection), so I’m sure he will be cleared shortly,’’ Vigneault said.
      Sean Couturier knows getting these two players back will strengthen the lineup considerably.
      “It was nice to have them out there with us,’’ Couturier said. “I guess they’re getting closer.’’
      Added Travis Konecny about Ellis: “He’s pretty steady, he does the little things out there that are going to be noticed. You can rely on him.”
      >Hart to start
      Vigneault said Carter Hart will start in goal for the Flyers against Toronto. He would not speculate on his goaltender schedule for the weekend games but with the back-to-game games, it’s assumed Martin Jones will start one of them.
      The coach has the luxury of having a true platoon. Jones, the backup, is 3-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average.
      “The consistent factor in the NHL, if you look at the teams that are winning, take a look at the goalie stats,’’ Vigneault said. “They’re related. Both our guys right now are on top of their game. It just breeds confidence throughout the rest of the lineup.”
      >Phantoms struggling
      The Flyers’ AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms are off to a slow start and that’s an understatement. As of Monday night action, the Phantoms had the poorest record in the 31-team league.
      Minor league teams are most about player development but there’s also the confidence factor and teaching young guys how to win.
      Coach Ian Laperriere is in his first year as a head coach and he’s had to deal with some significant injuries, including Mason Millman (kneecap fracture), Tanner Lazcynski (hip surgery) and Zayde Wisdom (knee).
      That said, the Phantoms should be better than last place in the whole AHL.
      “I’ve been talking to ‘Lappy’ on a regular basis,’’ Vigneault said. “That team is going through a process right now. We believe it’s going to make them stronger. Players are fighting it a little bit. There are ups and downs in a season and when you go through these adversity moments the best comes out. My understanding from him is the players are working extremely hard, it’s just a matter of time before things start trending their way.’’
About Wayne Fish 1501 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.