VOORHEES, N.J. – Maybe the Flyers’ season has become a helpless cause but don’t think it’s a complete loss.
There remain lessons to be learned, like how to play with pride and gain valuable experience for the years ahead.
Besides, the Flyers have the second-highest winning percentage in NHL history, so there’s that legacy to defend.
After Sunday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center, veteran defenseman Justin Braun spoke about the importance of cultivating an environment of good work habits while sticking up for the honor of a storied franchise.
Braun, who could be finishing up two-plus seasons in Philadelphia if he’s dealt at the March 21 NHL trade deadline, continues to play at a high level at age 35.
“You don’t want to embarrass yourself, you don’t want to embarrass the organization,’’ the Minnesota native said. “You have to go out there and work hard every night.’’
Young and old players alike want to show they are true professionals who play for team loyalty as much as big contracts.
“Circumstances are different for every guy,’’ Braun pointed out. “Some guys are trying to get their foot in the door, get in the league, stay in the league. Other guys are playing for contracts. But you have to play to win. You can’t just show up, get through the games. . .because you don’t want to make any logo you have on your chest – especially the Flyers’ – look bad.’’
Interim head coach Mike Yeo expressed similar feelings. With so many players out of the lineup, it would be easy to make excuses. Instead, Yeo is focusing on the players he has at his disposal and trying not to think about what if.
“We want to build a winning culture and that’s what winners do,’’ Yeo said. “They do things consistently and those are the details you’re talking about. It’s just an overall attitude and how you approach the game.’’
Coaches sometimes talk about having “too many passengers’’ on any given night and that’s a scenario the Flyers are trying to avoid.
“The bottom line is we need everybody,’’ Yeo said. “Night after night, to come to the rink ready to go and at the end of the night if you’re proud of your individual effort and you contributed to the team and the commitment to the group, then you’ve done your job.’’
All the injuries and illness have created a significant level of adversity. A player can either shun that challenge or embrace it.
“The fact that we’ve got a lot of guys out makes it challenging to win games,’’ Yeo said. “At the same time, I still think it’s an opportunity to grow. It’s forcing us to play almost perfect. It’s real difficult but at the same time, if we keep doing that and we get players back, we’re going to be a real tough team to play against.’’
Perhaps a good example of this is the play of Braun, who remains a plus-one even though the Flyers as a team are a dismal minus-47.
Braun spent his first nine seasons with the San Jose Sharks, so if he is moved at the deadline he will be going to only his third team in a dozen years.
“That’s everyday life in the NHL,’’ Braun said. “You never know if you’re going to move if you don’t have a no-move/no-trade clause. You just have to keep working everyday to try to help your team win.’’
With Ryan Ellis out for nearly the entire season, Braun has spent most of his time on the first pairing with Ivan Provorov.
“It’s nice to be back playing those kinds of minutes,” Braun said. “But when you’re not winning, it’s not ideal either. You hope to be doing those top minutes on a winning team.’’
>Brown, Ristolainen returning
Yeo expects to have both center Patrick Brown and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen back from injury rehab for Monday afternoon’s home game against Carolina.
Brown, just getting over a knee sprain, gives the Flyers a little more depth at center.
Ristolainen is expected to skate on the third defense pairing with Keith Yandle.
>Laczynski, Allison updates
Forward Tanner Laczynski returned from injury rehab and played for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Saturday night.
If things go well with the AHL team, he could be appearing in a Flyers game in the near future.
“He’s got a strong identity as a player,’’ Yeo said. “He’s a real good penalty killer and he’s got heavy shot. We’ve missed him this year. It’s great to get him back and playing because he could be a real good player for our organization.’’
Right wing Wade Allison was skating at the Flyers Training Center on Sunday, raising speculation he might be returning to action soon. Yeo said he would provide an update during a pre-game press briefing before Monday’s 3 p.m. game.