VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers are getting another early test Wednesday night when they face Connor McDavid and the undefeated Oilers in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Flyers have nine new players this season. They're hoping to have the most critical piece of the bunch for their latest measuring stick game.
Ryan Ellis, the team's prized offseason acquisition, returned to practice Monday at Flyers Training Center. The 30-year-old defenseman is dealing with an undisclosed injury and was unavailable last Saturday as the Flyers lost to the unbeaten Panthers, 4-2, at the Wells Fargo Center. Florida improved to 5-0-0. The Oilers are 5-0-0.
The Flyers departed for Edmonton, Alberta, following practice. Vigneault said Ellis will practice Tuesday and the Flyers will then make a decision for his status Wednesday (10 p.m. ET/TNT).
The all-situation blueliner took part in most of practice. He sat out a few portions that were higher paced and heightened in physicality. He left early while the team finished practice with a physical, forecheck-oriented drill. Alain Vigneault said that was the plan.
"He felt good as far as the feedback that I got coming off the ice," the Flyers' head coach said Monday. "Everything's progressing as we expected."
Ellis was not made available to the media after practice.
Following a season-opening 2-1-1 homestand, the Flyers begin a three-game Western Canada road trip. The Oilers are as dynamic offensively as they get, led by the best player in the world in McDavid. Edmonton has outscored its opponents 24-13, while McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have combined for 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists). They've earned the past two Hart Memorial Trophy honors: McDavid last season, Draisaitl the one before it.
"I think 'The Great One' (Wayne Gretzky) the other day on TV said that he thinks their power play now is better than the one that they had when they won those [four] Cups back then [in the 1980s]," Vigneault said. "That says a lot about their specialty teams, but it says a lot about their team.
"I'm really looking forward to this road trip. ... A good measuring stick to where we are."
Carter Hart will start Wednesday against the Oilers, with Martin Jones getting the nod Thursday against the Canucks (10 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).
Patrick Brown, who is nearing a return after recovering from a bout with the coronavirus, will have to fly later separately because of Canada's COVID-19 travel requirements. Vigneault said he expected the 29-year-old forward to join the team Wednesday at morning skate. While Brown's status is to be determined for Wednesday, Vigneault said Brown will play on this road trip. One would think Thursday seems logical given it's the second game of a back-to-back set. The Flyers wrap up the trip Saturday against the Flames (10 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).
When Brown jump in the lineup, he'll play on the fourth line. In the loss to the Panthers, the Flyers committed seven penalties. Three of them came from the fourth line, with Nate Thompson being whistled for two and Nicolas Aube-Kubel one. Zack MacEwen recently joined the fourth line, playing in the past two games.
"I want them to be physical, I want them to walk that fine line," Vigneault said. "They're supposed to be hard to play against and gritty, but they're penalties that we shouldn't have. I talked to Thommer about it today, Ku is very aware of it. You need those guys to play hard; they've just got to be smart. We can't possibly go into Edmonton and take seven penalties. We can't do that."
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