PHILADELPHIA – No one has to inform or remind the Flyers there’s been a recent uptick in COVID infection rates around the NHL, least of all interim head coach Mike Yeo.
The Flyers got hit hard by the virus at the beginning of the 2020-21 pandemic-shortened season when a number of top players, including Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton and Justin Braun, were forced to miss multiple games.
Teams such as the New York Islanders and Calgary Flames have already had games postponed this season because too many players were sidelined with the illness.
Yeo knows his team has to be cautious but during a Tuesday afternoon pre-game press briefing, he admitted he’s been so busy trying to pull things together after only a week on the job, he really hasn’t had time to think about the surging health crisis.
“In the last week I haven’t had much time to pay attention to anything,’’ Yeo said at the Wells Fargo Center. “I come to the rink and I hear some stuff about it. But I’m so immersed in what’s going on right now, we don’t have time for that to be a distraction. Other teams might have that luxury because of a point cushion in the standings, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. So we have to make sure we’re not being blinded by any distractions. Just keep focusing on what’s ahead of us.’’
>Konecny close to breakthrough
Travis Konecny entered Tuesday night’s game against New Jersey looking to break out of an 11-game goal drought.
As Yeo pointed out, Konecny nearly had a goal in Saturday night’s win at Arizona. However, James van Riemsdyk was credited with the goal when Konecny’s shot deflected off the blade of his stick.
“When you think of TK’s game, you think of energy,’’ Yeo said. “You think of relentlessness and you think of skating. I think we’ve seen that the last couple games. He’s starting to make more plays. I think he’s starting to feel better about his game. I think it’s just a matter of time until he gets one.’’
Konecny’s next goal will be his 100th in the NHL.
>Ellis making progress
Defenseman Ryan Ellis (hip/groin injury) underwent another MRI on Monday and Yeo said the results were promising.
“I talked to him this morning, he’s obviously progressing,’’ Yeo said. “That (a return to action) is something we’re looking to get him into very quickly here. We continue to monitor it; we’re very anxious to get him back. But that’s going to be a little time because he hasn’t been on the ice yet.’’
>Bedeviled by the Devils
New Jersey went into Tuesday night’s game having defeated the Flyers rather decisively in the first two meetings of the season.
What’s been the problem for the Flyers?
“One of the things we talked about is I don’t know if we’ve necessarily hated these guys for a rivalry team compared to maybe, say, Washington or Pittsburgh,’’ Yeo said. “I think we have to treat it like it is, a divisional opponent. Not to say that we want nastiness but a little bit more physical approach to the game, a little more attitude, grit. That would serve us well. We have to be disciplined, you can’t just be running around but we have to play with a physical edge.’’
>JVR role on power play
James van Riemsdyk led the Flyers with 17 power-play goals last season and had only one in the Alain Vigneault tenure. But he’s already posted two for Yeo and generated some blue chip chances.
Does this mean JVR will figure more prominently in assistant coach Darryl Williams’ scheme with the man advantage?
“He’s such an asset in that area of the ice,’’ Yeo acknowledged. “When he’s having success, that’s what you think of, him around the net, tipping pucks, making little plays. If we can continue to put him in that position where those opportunities are there for him, then we can use a guy who can take advantage of that.’’