Maybe this was a case of better late than never but the goodwill gesture still has the Flyers biting their lips in frustration.
After watching the Flyers struggle through a half-dozen games without numerous key players due to COVID protocol, the NHL finally showed some mercy on Tuesday night and postponed the scheduled game with Carolina.
Where was all that concern last Thursday night when the crazy hot Pittsburgh Penguins showed up and basically embarrassed a depleted Flyers lineup in front of their own fans?
Anyway, the Flyers are doing their best to focus on what’s ahead, not behind. So they used Tuesday to practice at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. and get an extra day of preparation in for Thursday night’s game at Boston.
From the good news department, both Claude Giroux and Travis Sanheim are just about recovered from COVID and practiced. They should be ready Thursday.
Meanwhile, defenseman Ivan Provorov and forward Travis Konecny are still in a holding pattern.
On the negative side, the defense corps continues to take hits. One day after Justin Braun was put on the COVID list, Rasmus Ristolainen joined him on Tuesday.
It’s a fluid situation but at least the Flyers had Tuesday to gather their wits and somewhat regroup.
Interim head coach Mike Yeo indicated he did not get word of the postponement until late Monday night when he received a call from general manager Chuck Fletcher.
“It just came down to we were depleted to begin with,’’ Yeo said during a media Zoom call. “We had the possibility of getting ‘G’ (Giroux) back (off COVID list) and we did. But you look at the lineup today, we’re also taking out Braun and Patrick Brown (out for four weeks with an MCL knee sprain) and Ristolainen. We would have been more shorthanded than we already were.’’
That said, why wasn’t there consideration given by the NHL to scratching the Pittsburgh game when the Flyers were just as shorthanded or worse?
“I can see why people might think that,’’ Yeo said. “There are a lot of moving parts. I do understand and empathize, whether it’s business people, league, scheduling. . .I know there are a lot of factors that go in. I was actually excited with the opportunity and the challenges of going into those games with the group we had. At certain points it was frustrating. It makes it more difficult. But we have to embrace those difficulties. That’s part of being a successful group, not giving in to excuses.’’
Added Sanheim: “The Pittsburgh game, there was definitely some frustration. But it is what it is. It’s the league’s decision. We have to keep moving forward.’’
Yeo said he isn’t sure about the status of Provorov and Konecny for the game against the Bruins.
The Flyers now have had four games postponed so far this season. An earlier game against the Islanders was moved into the Jan. 18 slot originally assigned to a Flyers-Detroit Red Wings game. That game has been moved but no reschedule date has been announced yet.
Yeo was asked if perhaps the NHL should halt the season for a couple weeks just to get past the current COVID/Omicron surge.
“I would probably say let’s keep going,’’ Yeo replied. “We’ve gone through the worst of it I think with our group. Our players, for the most part, have been asymptomatic. But I don’t have a say in those things.’’
Giroux, sounding a bit hoarse, said his conditioning might need a little work but other than that he’s ready to go.
“When you don’t do anything for five or six days, it’s tough to get back into practice,’’ he said.
Are the inconsistencies of postponements around the league a bit frustrating?
“That’s the league’s decision, not ours,’’ he said. “Sometimes you have a game you’re not sure you’re going to play. You just have to pretend like you know you’re going to play. We have a lot of guys out but they’re starting to come back.’’
Giroux said he quarantined in the basement of his house. Not seeing his kids for a few days didn’t make it very easy.
“It was tough,’’ he said. “But it is what it is.’’
Sanheim skated on Monday so he got a headstart and will have three practices under his belt by the time the Flyers hit Beantown.
Like Giroux, Sanheim felt some frustration at having to watch his team perform without some of its best players.
With a number of players being asymptomatic, it’s difficult to sit out and watch games on television. Sort of a helpless feeling.
“We have guys who are sick with the flu or other illnesses,’’ Sanheim said. “They continue to play because they keep testing negative. Then you have guys (with COVID) who are perfectly fine, just hanging out and they’re unable to be around the team. From that standpoint it’s frustrating but we don’t have all the information of the effects of playing with it. So, I’m not able to give a full answer.’’
>Excited for addition to JVR family
On Monday, Lauren and James van Riemsdyk welcomed new baby Liam to their family. JVR was back at practice on Tuesday and received a warm reception.
“It was great to see him and he was very excited,’’ Yeo said. “We were excited for him. He was leading the (team) stretch at the end. One thing we want here is a real family atmosphere. All our players are extremely happy for him.’’