NEWARK, N.J. – If the Flyers are going to turn things around and somehow get back in the playoff hunt, they’re going to need their best players in the lineup on a nightly basis.
One of those fixtures is Derick Brassard, who made a return to the lineup Wednesday for a game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.
Brassard missed the better part of two weeks with a hip injury and his presence can only help a team which is still missing Ryan Ellis and Joel Farabee.
New interim coach Mike Yeo said after the morning skate that he would try to bring Brassard back slowly by putting him on the fourth line at least to start the game.
Yeo initially planned to use Brassard, normally a center, on the left wing, again for the beginning of the game.
“I think it gives him a chance to get back into the game,’’ Yeo said. “The other three lines played well the last game. It gives us a chance to keep those other units together for awhile.’’
The Flyers want to keep a close eye on Brassard. The player disclosed he tried to practice recently and suffered a little bit of a setback.
“Obviously he’s been a real good player for us,’’ Yeo said. “He’s a veteran guy who has been around the league a long time. He understands there’s a lot of hockey left to be played. So you don’t want to put those guys in a tough place. You want to make sure he has the medical clearance from the doctors but at the same time he’s comfortable and ready to go. He certainly feels that he is.’’
As expected, Brassard had a tough time just sitting and watching.
“Being out for two weeks, it’s kind of a brutal feeling to not be able to help out,’’ Brassard said. “A few days ago I tried to practice and camd back a little too soon, a little setback. But now I feel pretty good and try to keep it as simple as I can.’’
Brassard, signed as a free agent in the offseason, has been a pleasant surprise for the Flyers. He was among the team’s scoring leaders when he went down.
He’s only watched a game or two because he’s usually back in the gym/training room working on rehab but he knows the Flyers have to do better in a lot of areas.
“Overall, our game has to be better,’’ he said. “Everyone knows that in our dressing room. I think our group cares a lot.’’
>Connauton in transit
The Flyers claimed defenseman Kevin Connauton off waivers from Florida on Tuesday. Yeo said Connauton was in transit from Florida and would not be available to play in Wednesday night’s game. Connauton will be wearing No. 8 when he does get into action sometime this weekend.
“There obviously will be a feeling-out process, getting to know him better,’’ Yeo said. “He’s a guy who does give us experience. This is very difficult stretch, five games in seven days. Having another defenseman back there, whether it’s a fresh pair of legs or just security in case someone gets hurt, is a real good thing.’’
>Schultz on the bench
Former Flyer player Nick Schultz, now a player development coach with the team, was slated to join Yeo as an unofficial assistant coach for Wednesday night’s game. He takes the place of Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere, who provided a similar role in Monday night’s game against Colorado.
“We have some things to figure out as to how our staff is going to look,’’ said Yeo, who hasn’t had much time to put together a coaching staff after the abrupt firing of head coach Alain Vigneault and assistant coach Michel Therrien on Monday. “I will tell you we have a lot of good hockey people in our organization. So to have a resource like Nick, a guy that I coached and knows the game very well, it’s great for us. . .a real nice luxury for me.’’
>Room for improvement
The Flyers entered Wednesday night’s game on a nine-game winless streak and Yeo was asked what he believes the Flyers have to do to turn things around.
“It’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing,’’ the coach said. “The guys are tight, that’s number one. You can see there are times we have an opportunity to make a play, to keep possession of the puck and we’re sort of throwing it away. That’s a confidence issue, something we have to work on. There are times when there’s a 50/50 puck and we’re hoping that we’re going to get it as opposed to making sure that we’re on the defensive side of things. Also, we need to counterattack with more speed.’’