All through these couple months of dreary hockey the Flyers have insisted things would change once they started getting back some of their injured players.
Now we might see if that vow carries any weight.
After Thursday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J., interim head coach Mike Yeo disclosed that for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Washington Capitals, he will have first-line left wing Joel Farabee (left shoulder) back in the lineup after a month-long injury absence.
Also, centers Derick Brassard (hip) and Kevin Hayes (adductor) could be returning to action shortly. Brassard hasn’t been ruled out for the Caps game and Yeo stated if Hayes continues to progress he might be on the ice sometime next week. Both practiced on Friday.
Then, if right wing Wade Allison (knee) can somehow make his way back into the lineup in the near future, that would leave only Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis and Nate Thompson in long-term injury status.
Farabee, last season’s leading scorer with 20 goals in the pandemic-shortened 56-game season, will jump right into the middle of Flyers action, joining first-liners Claude Giroux and Cam Atkinson at even-strength as well as the first power-play and penalty-kill units.
His return is a welcome sight for Yeo, who acknowledged the Flyers could use some good news after a plague of injuries.
“First of all, it gives you a lift,’’ Yeo said after the workout. “Sort of a motivational lift. The reality is, when you’re going through something like this, those negative feelings are there. It can be draining for players. I think providing some excitement, a guy who can make plays, that will be good.
Out since Jan. 22, Farabee still has 11 goals in just 33 games and should give the Flyers a stronger presence in their transition game.
“On the power play, he’s got the vision,’’ Yeo said. “When you’re playing against top players, that’s part of his role. Despite being a young player, he reads the play very well. He’s a player as a coach you can trust.’’
Countering other team’s best players has been a problem area for the Flyers all season long. So, with Alexander Ovechkin in town on Saturday, the Flyers might be assisted for this task by Farabee.
“That’s a big part of playing on a top line,’’ Yeo said. “You’re getting the hardest matchups when you’re doing that and sometimes people forget about that. There’s offensive responsibilities and defensive responsibilities. We’ve missed him on the penalty kill since he’s been out. Joel’s a key part of that. He should give us big help there.’’
Farabee has maturity well beyond his years (he turns 22 Friday) and that speaks to his well-thoughtout game.
“It definitely stinks not playing,’’ Farabee said. “I think it’s good just being back. Getting back into a routine will be good for me after being out so long. I felt pretty good at practice today.’’
He knows someone of his caliber can make a difference. The Flyers are winless in their last six games and have won only two games since Dec. 29. Getting Farabee, Brassard and Patrick Brown (back from a knee injury) in action lifts spirits.
“Having those guys (Brassard, Brown) on the ice definitely brings a lot of excitement,’’ Farabee said. “Guys are a lot more happy at practice. That’s a big part of playing – you have to be excited to play.’’
Meanwhile, Brassard could be making his third stab at a comeback since initially getting injured in early December.
“I’m not sure on ‘Brass’ yet,’’ Yeo said. “I’m trying to get him full reps to obviously test everything. Give him the opportunity to feel good about his game, give everything a real test to get him back and keep him back here.’’
Yeo said he would make a determination after Friday’s practice.
If Brassard does return, Yeo has to decide the playing status of center Morgan Frost. Giroux, Scott Laughton and Patrick Brown hold down the other center spots and currently Brassard probably holds an edge over Frost for playing time.
“I don’t know if putting Frost on the fourth line (as a possible center or wing) really suits his game,’’ Yeo said. “But we’re really not ruling anything out yet. We just want him to keep his head up. He’s doing a lot of good things.’’
>Hart recovers from eye infection
Goaltender Carter Hart, who missed the last two games due to an eye infection, practiced on Friday and should be ready to go against the Capitals.
He’s dealt with the problem twice this season.
“It feels a lot better today,’’ he reported. “Just kind of one of those annoying things. I’ve never had them before. It’s weird. I woke up and couldn’t see. That’s pretty important when you’re trying to stop a puck.’’
>Provorov trying too hard?
Top defenseman Ivan Provorov experienced one of his toughest weeks in recent memory. He was a minus-3 in last week’s loss to Washington and a minus-4 (although two were empty-net goals) in Tuesday’s defeat by St. Louis.
This is only news because such performances are rather rare for the Russian stalwart.
“I thought the Washington game he played a really strong game,’’ Yeo said. “And then he had a big mistake at the end of the game. From the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen he takes an awful lot of pride in winning and doing the job well. When he’s not doing well, he seems to put that on his back.’’
The result is Provorov sometimes tries to correct the problem by taking matters into his own hands.“Unfortunately one thing that happens with that is he tries to win the game for us every time he’s out on the ice,’’ Yeo said. “Really what we need from him is just go out and be himself. If you try to do too much you put yourself in a bad position. The next thing you know you’re making mistakes. It’s not a matter of effort.’’