Hockey health can be such an arbitrary thing, especially when it comes to injuries of the nagging variety.
Currently, as it pertains to the Flyers, there’s pretty much agreement that a patient approach in the recovery phase is the most prudent one.
For the team to make any sort of improvement this season, it’s generally conceded the number of man-games lost to injury has to come way down. They finished with the third-highest total in the NHL last season, although a lot of that had to do with the year-long leaves of Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson due to prior injuries.
No decision was made on his availability for Thursday night’s season opener in Columbus until game day. The feeling was there was no real urgent reason for him to be rushed back.
As it turns out, Ristolainen was scratched. He also did not play on Saturday in Ottawa.
As Tortorella pointed out about any type of injury, the coach didn’t want to try to use the hurting player for one game and then lose him for the next three.
Over the years, and well before Tortorella’s time, the Flyers had earned a reputation – fairly or unfairly – for attempting to “rush” nicked up players back into the lineup.
This season, with no stated mission of making the playoffs per se, the Flyers sound like they want to take a more relaxed, pragmatic stance.
“We didn’t have a meeting with how we’re doing this with injuries,” Tortorella stated on Wednesday. “I think our medical staff has come a long way. We’ve made changes, we’ve brought different people in, brought even more people in to help.
“The biggest thing I tell the players is if you’re sore, you’re sore. If you’re injured, you’re injured. And there’s a difference there. Sometimes you just have to play through soreness. Injuries are injuries. This one here (Ristolainen), we just don’t want it to nag.”
After a very demanding training camp, some players were experiencing more than a little soreness. A guy like Atkinson is as tough as they come but even he had to take a couple games off to properly recover from the difficult skating drills.
Yet for the opening game of the regular season, most of the Flyers were in a good state of health and that’s the way Tortorella wants to keep it.
“There’s no special thing we’re doing different here,” Tortorella insisted. “We’re trying to keep our athletes as healthy as we can. But also, teach them that there’s a difference between being sore and being hurt.”
>Renewing an old rivalry
The Flyers have faced off against their former coach, Peter Laviolette, a number of times with different teams since he was let go nearly a decade ago but now that he’s working behind the New York Rangers bench, the rivalry is sure to get a little more intense.
It’s been almost 50 years of furious hockey between the two teams dating back to that highly intense 1974 Stanley Cup semifinal series, one in which Dave “The Hammer” Schultz put a pretty good beating on Rangers defenseman Dale Rolfe.
Since then it’s always been a special night when the two teams get together. Since coaching the Flyers, Laviolette has worked behind the Nashville and Washington benches. He also won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes (2006) and did a nice job in his first stab at the NHL with the New York Islanders to start his career in the big show.
Only one player, Scott Laughton, remains from the Laviolette era with the Flyers (only five games). But at least several players on the Flyers know Laviolette was the last coach to take the team to the Stanley Cup Final, so there’s that. Plus a whole lot of veteran fans will be in the stands when Laviolette and the Blueshirts hit the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 24 for a Black Friday showdown. There should be a lot of emotion in the building for that one.
>Only five left
Last year there were just eight.
This season the number has dropped to five.
We’re referring to the number of NHL teams without captains.
The five clubs are the Flyers, Anaheim, Arizona, Chicago and the Seattle Kraken.
It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until you learn the last team to win a Stanley Cup without a player wearing a “C” on his jersey was the 1972 Boston Bruins team (which won the Stanley Cup).
Of the five clubs, it would appear the Kraken might have the chance of making a somewhat serious run at a Cup.
As for the Flyers, there were some who thought the Flyers might add to their on-ice leadership, for which only Laughton (who wears an “A”) has an official role. The returns of Couturier and Atkinson were possibilities to be named captain but Tortorella didn’t budge.