VOORHEES, N.J. — Alain Vigneault put the Flyers through some intense and lengthy on-ice conditioning at the end of Sunday's practice.
It was a good time to push the pedal before the Flyers' team bonding activities and a day off Monday.
"The guys have got a well-deserved day off tomorrow," the Flyers' head coach said following Sunday's practice, "and we're back at it on Tuesday getting ready for the start of the season."
The Flyers were headed for golf and dinner in Atlantic City.
"It's going to be nice to get away," Derick Brassard said. "It's the last time we can shut down our brains and our bodies for maybe a day and a half and come back and practice."
The Flyers wrapped up the preseason Friday and then practiced Saturday and Sunday. They kick off their 2021-22 season this upcoming Friday when they host the Canucks (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
"Guys went pretty hard," Brassard said of Sunday's practice. "We're just aiming for that first game. We've got to be ready right from the puck drop and it starts here with practices and in the gym."
How will the Flyers look come the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center? Let's answer five questions to get you as ready as possible.
Who's making the final cut?
The Flyers must submit their roster by Monday at 5 p.m. ET. Vigneault said he expects the club to open with the minimum of 20 players because of its tight salary cap situation.
"Especially at the beginning where we're at home and we can save some money for down the road," Vigneault said. "Everything will be considered and guys will make the best possible decisions."
Opening the season on a four-game homestand, the Flyers have flexibility if they're in need of a call-up from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley an hour-plus drive away. Excluding injured players, the Flyers' roster is currently at 24 players, with Egor Zamula being cleared and rejoining the club Sunday.
By the look of the practices, Garrett Wilson seems to be the favorite for the 12th and final forward spot over Jackson Cates. Wilson, a 30-year-old winger on a professional tryout, will need to be signed to an NHL contract if the Flyers do keep him instead of having him go back to the Phantoms.
If the Flyers do in fact start with a 20-man roster, the final cuts would be Cates, Zamula, Nick Seeler and Cam York. To report to Lehigh Valley, Seeler would have to clear waivers, while Cates, Zamula and York would not.
Are there any new injuries?
Defensemen Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen missed practice Saturday and Sunday for maintenance reasons. Consecutive practices is a bit eyebrow-raising, but the Flyers do have time on their side and their using it. Erring on the side of caution makes sense with the club scheduled to practice three more times before Friday.
Vigneault expects both blueliners back in practice Tuesday. He was not concerned about their statuses.
"No, just bumps and bruises that you get and we've got a full week here to make sure that our whole personnel is as close to you can be when a season starts," Vigneault said. "Nobody ever plays at 100 percent in this game — there's just too much intensity and too much banging going on. Right now we had a few days where we can take care of a few things and that's what we're doing."
After missing Thursday's practice for a maintenance day and, as a result of the absence, not playing in Friday's preseason finale, Carter Hart practiced Saturday and Sunday. The 23-year-old goalie is good to go.
Zamula, the club's 21-year-old defensive prospect, returned sooner than anticipated after suffering a strain to his hip/groin area. On Sept. 30, Vigneault said the Flyers expected Zamula to miss three to four weeks.
Kevin Hayes skated Saturday as part of his rehab from abdominal surgery. The second-line center could miss nine to 10 games, more or less.
What are the forward lines?
Here's how the Flyers have looked at forward over the span of Friday's preseason finale and this weekend's practices:
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Joel Farabee-Derick Brassard-Cam Atkinson
Oskar Lindblom-Scott Laughton-James van Riemsdyk
Garrett Wilson-Nate Thompson-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
How about the pairs on defense?
When Ellis and Ristolainen return, the Flyers' defensive pairs will be:
Ivan Provorov-Ryan Ellis
Travis Sanheim-Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle-Justin Braun
The Flyers used these pairs all training camp and preseason. Provorov and Ellis are the no-brainer top pair, while Vigneault has liked the chemistry between Sanheim and Ristolainen.
Expect these pairs on opening night.
And the duo in net?
Hart is the Flyers' No. 1 goalie with the 31-year-old veteran Martin Jones as the backup.
In five exhibition periods during the preseason, Hart stopped 41 of 43 shots.
Jones faced a ton of action in his four preseason games, allowing 11 goals. He saw the third-most shots of any goalie in the NHL preseason with 95, behind only Dan Vladar (121) and Alex Nedeljkovic (116).
Two of Jones' preseason appearances were stiff tune-ups against the Bruins' regulars at TD Garden and the Islanders' regulars at Webster Bank Arena. In both games, the Flyers had a preseason mix and were at a clear NHL talent disadvantage.
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