Kevin Hayes became the third Flyer to join the COVID protocol list on Monday but both general manager Chuck Fletcher and interim head coach Mike Yeo say the team simply will have to deal with it like everybody else.
After all, a lot of National Hockey League teams are in a similar boat. . .or worse. Games are being postponed left and right and so far, the Flyers have had only one game called off and that’s because the Islanders had multiple players inactive.
Hayes joins Morgan Frost and Max Willman on the list of sidelined Flyers who won’t be available for Tuesday night’s home game against the Washington Capitals.
There was one bit of positive news: Goaltender Carter Hart, who’s been ill the past couple days, practiced at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. after it was determined the health issue was not COVID-related.
During a post-practice Zoom media call, Fletcher acknowledged his team isn’t impervious to the latest uptick in virus cases.
“It’s creeping in a little bit into our group,’’ he said. “I think we’re all concerned. You just look around the league, the NFL, the NBA. Our sport, it seems like everyday there are more positives. There’s a surge right now going on in the world. We’re all human. We’re doing the best we can, following protocols. We’re back to where we were last year.’’
The NHL has already instituted a shutdown of games involving travel between Canada and the U.S., along with teams closing their facilities due to an abundance of caution.
“We’ll just deal with it, we’re no different than anyone else,’’ Fletcher said. “We’re prepared to play tomorrow, Thursday (at Pittsburgh) and every game. But clearly everyone’s dealing with it, so we’re just the same.’’
>Laughton into Hayes spot
Yeo mentioned Scott Laughton might be a candidate to fill Hayes’ spot on the lines chart for Tuesday night’s game.
“The message is, whatever it is, we have to deal with it,’’ Yeo said. “That’s what good teams do, they don’t get wrapped up in distractions, excuses.’’
>Injury, illness update
Fletcher said Frost and Willman are “doing fine.’’ Hart tested negative for COVID and is feeling much better. Derick Brassard is now listed as day-to-day. He’s a possibility for Pittsburgh. Wade Allison, just back from an ankle injury now has an elbow problem. He’s being seen by a specialist.
Also, Sean Couturier had Monday off for a maintenance day. He’s been battling through a variety of injuries. “He’s a warrior,’’ Fletcher said. “He keeps playing hard.’’ Ryan Ellis has been skating but is still listed as week-to-week.
Yeo sounded relieved Hart is back on his feet and practicing again.
“It’s great to have him out there and to get the news it wasn’t COVID,’’ Yeo said. “He’s had a couple rough days. We have to be smart here. We don’t want to put Carter in a situation where it could possibly hurt him.’’
>Improvement under Yeo
The Flyers are 4-2-1 under Yeo, including 4-0-1 in their last five games. Fletcher has to be pleased with the early returns.
“We’re playing better,’’ he said. “We have a lot of work to do. Mike’s been clear on that. It’s difficult making adjustments on the fly. We haven’t had a lot of practice time. It’s not something that’s going to change immediately, it’s going to take time and work.’’
Players such as Travis Sanheim, James van Riemsdyk and Oskar Lindblom have all picked up their production since Yeo took over.
“We’re doing everything we can to talk to each individual,’’ Yeo said. “Put them in a situation with players we feel can benefit them. We’re going to keep on harping on the team game.’’
Added Riemsdyk: “He (Yeo) has come in and done a good job in re-emphasizing things he wants us to do. Just play effectively so we’re all on the same page.’’
>Assistant coaches still to be officially named
According to Fletcher, the Flyers are still working on naming Yeo’s “official’’ assistant coaches. Yeo has been getting help from player development coaches Darryl Williams and Nick Schultz among others.
“We’re still working through that,’’ Fletcher said. “It’s been really busy right now. This group has been working hard. They get along, they’re aware of what we need to do. It’s working right now but we’ll continue to look at it.’’
Flyers captain Claude Giroux recorded career point number 883 on Saturday night, moving him into a tie for second place with Bill Barber on the Flyers’ alltime scoring list.
Quite an accomplishment.
“He really deserves a tap on the shinpads right now,’’ Yeo said. “Last game he was plus-8 in scoring chances. Which is really a great game. He’s been bringing it – he really has all year. He’s one of those guys who’s been leading the charge. I think all of our leadership, starting with him, has been outstanding.’’
>Provorov proud of streak
Ivan Provorov played in his 400th straight game the other night, moving him to within 84 games of Rod Brind’Amour’s team record. Provorov says he’s proud of the feat.
“I take pride in being able to compete in every game,’’ he said. “Go out there and help my team win. It means a lot to me. I’m not stopping yet.’’
>Olympics in doubt?
With the surge in COVID, there are reports the NHL will back out of participating in the Winter Olympics in China during February.
Provorov, a sure-shot to make the Russia team, says he wants to go although he understands the health situation.
“There are a lot of things that are unclear right now,’’ he said. “The previous Olympics (Korea, 2018, which the NHL skipped) I had a chance to go. To miss two chances to go to the Olympics would be really tough. But you know I think we have to do what’s right.’’