VOORHEES, N.J. — As Claude Giroux hit the ice for practice — not a game — on Tuesday, it appeared the Flyers had finally caught what felt like a long overdue break.
Instead of hosting the 24-7-2 Hurricanes and playing their entire three-game homestand pretty damningly shorthanded, the Flyers practiced Tuesday and saw their captain exit the NHL's COVID protocol.
Mike Yeo's club had its matchup with Carolina postponed late Monday night because of its COVID-19 situation. The Flyers have lost five straight games (0-3-2) while battling illness and injuries.
A day to practice and get healthier was welcomed by the Flyers. They didn't really care for the exact intricacies of why their game was postponed.
"We were given an opportunity to have a practice today and personally I was quite excited about that," Yeo, the Flyers' interim head coach, said.
On Tuesday, Rasmus Ristolainen entered COVID protocol, joining Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Justin Braun. Patrick Brown was also out as the forward will miss approximately four weeks with an MCL sprain.
Giroux was the latest Flyer to return from COVID protocol. Travis Sanheim did so Monday.
The Flyers had 13 forwards and six defensemen at practice Tuesday. Maybe the league was throwing the Flyers a small bone after having them play last Thursday with six players in protocol and two days later with four players in protocol. Both games were at home and the Flyers went 0-1-1 in them.
"As far as reasoning, I think that it would just come down to we're depleted to begin with," Yeo said. "We had a possibility of maybe getting G back today, which obviously did happen. We didn't know if that was going to be the case. We did get Sanny back, but you look at the lineup today, we're also taking out Justin Braun, Patrick Brown, Rasmus Ristolainen. We would have been even more shorthanded than we already were. I didn't ask why, to be honest with you, but I can only assume that would be the reason.
"There are a lot of moving parts. I do understand and empathize that whether it's business people, whether it's league, whether it's scheduling, whether it's the other team's travel, I know that there are lot of factors that go in. I haven't really spent a lot of time thinking about that.
"I said it last week and I wasn't lying to you guys, I was actually excited about the opportunities and the challenges of going into those games with the group that we had and seeing if we could fight. At certain points, it was frustrating, and at certain points, it makes it more difficult. But we have to embrace those difficulties, that's part of becoming a successful group."
Flyers at practice
Joel Farabee-Claude Giroux-Cam Atkinson
James van Riemsdyk-Kevin Hayes-Gerry Mayhew
Max Willman-Scott Laughton-Oskar Lindblom
Jackson Cates-Connor Bunnaman-Zack MacEwen
Egor Zamula-Travis Sanheim
Cam York-Nick Seeler
Keith Yandle-Kevin Connauton
Along with Provorov, Giroux has missed three straight games.
"That's on the league to decide if we're going to play or not," Giroux said. "For us, sometimes you've got a game that you're not sure you're going to play, you've just got to pretend like you know you're going to play, you've got to prepare yourself for the game. Obviously we have a lot of guys that were out. Guys are slowly going to come back here and we'll be able to get the guys back."
Sanheim and Konecny have missed the last two games. Most of the Flyers to hit protocol have been asymptomatic or have experienced mild symptoms.
"We've got guys that are sick with the flu or other illnesses that are continuing to play because they keep testing negative," Sanheim said. "Then you've got guys that are sitting at home perfectly fine just hanging out and unable to be around the team, to play games. From that standpoint, it's frustrating. But in saying that, we don't have all the information of the effects of playing with it, so I'm unable to give a full answer on that depth."
Giroux and Sanheim will return to the lineup Thursday when the Flyers (13-15-7) visit the Bruins (7 p.m. ET/ESPN). The club is hopeful it'll also see the returns of Provorov and Konecny. The Flyers will practice Wednesday in Voorhees, New Jersey before heading to Boston.
Provorov and Konecny have fulfilled the five-day isolation requirement. However, a player must have a negative lab-based RT-PCR test to complete the requirements of exiting protocol.
"I'm not sure," Yeo said. "Obviously G being out there with us today, I would expect G to be ready to go, Sanny ready to go. T.K. and Provy are still in protocol, so I'm not sure on that. All the testing requirements and how you can test out and the conversations with the league, that would be a little bit more to our medical staff. I'm hopeful because I know that they're getting near that timeline, so we'll see. But as of right now, we'll just keep working with the group that we have."
That group featured James van Riemsdyk again after the winger had missed Monday's practice for the birth of his second child. He and his wife Lauren had a baby boy named William (Liam).
"It was great to see him and he was very excited," Yeo said. "We're excited for him. You saw him leading the stretch there at the end. One thing that we want here is a real family atmosphere. All of our players are extremely happy for one of their teammates when something like that happens. We're hockey players and hockey coaches, but we all have our own personal lives, so a moment like that and something like that happening is pretty special."
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