Ready or not, Flyers’ Brassard set to make his return

Derick Brassard at the Flyers' morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center (Zack Hill photo)

In a situation like the Flyers are in right now, it’s all hands on deck.

With the latest COVID surge depleting the Flyers’ roster on what feels like a daily basis, even someone such as Derick Brassard – who hasn’t played or fully practiced since Dec. 8 (and has played only one game since Nov. 23) due to injury – gets called into duty.

Making the matter yet more urgent, Thursday night’s opponent happens to be the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.

With Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier already sidelined on the forward lines and Travis Konecny added to the COVID protocol list on Wednesday, Brassard will make an appearance even though he only had Thursday morning’s pre-game skate at the Wells Fargo Center to prepare.

“I think we’ve definitely reached that point,’’ interim head coach Mike Yeo said during a media Zoom call. “The good news is he has been skating (on his own). (Development coach) Kjell Samuelsson did a good job putting him through his paces here (at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J.) and I know the skates were challenging for him.’’

Brassard, signed as a free agent in the offseason, got off to a fast start this season but the latest injury took a bit longer than the Flyers originally anticipated. Plus, he also was recently infected by the coronavirus, which most likely slowed his comeback.

“In a perfect world, we would have had the opportunity to get him in there and battle (in practice) and get involved with the group,’’ Yeo said. “No. 1, we don’t have the bodies and No. 2, we don’t have the practices. The good thing is he’s a player who plays with his head a lot. I don’t expect to see a real difficult transition. I think he will get in there quickly and find his game.’’

Yeo has made it a point not to let the COVID situation be too much of a distraction but it’s difficult when so many key players are out of the lineup.

“I don’t think there are a lot of people out there who are going to feel sorry for us that we have people out of the lineup,’’ Yeo said. “The bottom line is two points are being awarded for this game tonight and I know our opponent is not going to feel sorry for us. They’ve been probably the best team in the league over the last little while. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a great challenge.’’

James van Riemsdyk said the current situation is nothing new, so it’s understood the next-man-up mentality has to be a matter of course.

“The world we live in today, it’s more common than not,’’ he said. “It’s an opportunity for guys to play an expanded role, get a chance to show what they can do. You have to take that opportunity and run with it. Unfortunately these things are a lot more common lately so you just have to make the most of it and go from there.’’

>On their way home

At least four players who took ill on the West Coast trip – Giroux, Ivan Provorov, Jackson Cates and Nick Seeler – finally got to fly home on Thursday.

“None of them have any symptoms,’’ Yeo reported. “My last conversation was that they were all symptom-free.’’

>Zamula gets a start

Defenseman Egor Zamula, who got into his first two NHL games last season, was called up from the Phantoms and was scheduled to play in Thursday night’s game.

“He’s been playing well (in Allentown),’’ Yeo said about the rangy Russian.  “He’s got a lot of qualities that you like for an NHL defenseman – his skating ability, his poise, his range and reach with his stick. He still needs the strength you need to compete at the NHL level. That’s something he can grow into. We’re going to play against a high-pressure team (tonight). That’s where the execution of your defensemen is so critical.’’

About Wayne Fish 1564 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.