Streak over, Provorov critical of COVID protocol policy

Ivan Provorov practices on Wednesday at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. ( Zack Hill. photo)

      It might be different if just your average player vented frustration over having to miss a few hockey games due to COVID protocol.

      But Ivan Provorov is no average player. He has a recently ended 403 consecutive game streak to prove it.

      Thus, it was understandable that Provorov let off a little steam after Wednesday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J.

      Provorov, along with Travis Konecny and Justin Braun, were cleared from the COVID list and are expected to play in Thursday night’s game at Boston.

      When asked about having to sit even though he felt pretty healthy during his forced quarantine, Provorov let it be known in so many words the NHL’s health measures might be a bit overstated.

      “I don’t think there’s a way to keep your mind off it,’’ Provorov said during a media Zoom call. “You sit at home and your team is playing. Is it tough? Yeah, you’re willing to play through anything – any injury, any illness. Here you get maybe a regular flu, not even, and then someone tells you that you can’t come back when you feel fine.’’

      Provorov had not missed a regular-season or playoff game since joining the Flyers for the 2016-17 campaign. The regular-season streak was the longest from the start of a career by a defenseman with the same team in NHL history.

      Clearly, the young Russian has been frustrated.

      “Especially when you’re trying to go out there and help your team win,’’ Provorov said. “You take pride in that. If it’s a broken bone or a broken leg or something like that, at least you can say, ‘OK, I can’t play through that. I can live with that.’ But if it’s just the flu that has a 99.9 (percent) survival rate, then everyone should play. When other teams play against us with the stomach flu, for some reason they’re not canceling games. So why are they letting us play or canceling games now? Something has to change and hopefully it’s going to change soon.’’

      Provorov, one of the team’s leaders and an alternate captain, most likely speaks for a lot of his teammates when he talks about possible change.

      “Eventually you’re going to have to get over it,’’ he said. “You can’t live in fear all the time. If you keep trapping yourself your immune system is going to go down naturally. We have to find a way to get over this and live a normal life. . .get back to where it was two years ago.’’

      The Flyers are trying to break out of a five-game winless streak, much of which can be attributed to a depleted lineup.

      Speaking of slumps, Konecny is looking to break out of a scoring drought which dates back to Nov. 18. It’s the longest dry spell of his career and one which has him admitting he’s been “gripping’’ his stick a little too tightly.

      The next goal he scores will be No. 100 but he contends that milestone has no special significance.

      “I think it is just a coincidence,’’ he said. “When I started sliding, when I wasn’t scoring, it was six or seven games when I found out that I was (one) from my 100th goal. So I don’t think it had anything to do with it. Obviously I’m gripping it a little bit right now. For me, it’s just getting my game back to where it needs to be; the team game needs to come back into shape. The drought isn’t ideal, I want to come out of it but first things first – getting the team better.’’

      Yeo acknowledged Konecny has been putting a little pressure on himself.

      “Everybody knows he hasn’t scored,’’ Yeo said. “Maybe he can have a little bit of a reset here.’’

      >New defense pairings

      With Rasmus Ristolainen added to the COVID list, it looks like interim head coach Mike Yeo will have new defense pairings once again.

      At Wednesday’s practice, Provorov and Travis Sanheim (who also cleared COVID protocol on Monday) worked together. Braun and rookie Cam York formed another pairing.

      “ ‘Sanny’ and I played together before, my third year,’’ Provorov said. “We played 75 percent of the season together. It worked well. I think we moved the puck pretty well. It might take him awhile to switch from left (side) to right but I think we can get back to where we were, get the chemistry back.’’

      >Turning the corner?

      With Claude Giroux, Konecny, Provorov, Braun and others returning to the lineup, the Flyers are hoping this latest virus outbreak is just about over and brighter days are ahead.

      “It’s great news, you get three players (Konecny, Provorov, Braun) of that caliber back and the roles they play, you could definitely see a big boost to the energy level at practice today,’’ Yeo said.

      Due to the postponement of Tuesday night’s game against Carolina, the Flyers managed to get three straight quality practices in, which should be helpful.

      “I hope so,’’ Yeo said. “We haven’t had this opportunity. I feel like we’re well prepared. It’s still a good challenge playing that team. I feel good about the things we’ve touched on this week.’’

About Wayne Fish 1760 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.