VOORHEES, N.J. — Maintenance days grow in concern and almost lose the meaning of maintenance when they start piling up in succession.
With Ryan Ellis, the headliner of the Flyers' active offseason, he has missed three straight practices for what head coach Alain Vigneault has labeled as maintenance days. The all-situation defenseman has not taken the ice since last Friday's preseason finale. Ellis did not practice Saturday, Sunday or Tuesday. Monday was an off day for the club.
Rasmus Ristolainen has been in the same boat as Ellis. Another one of the Flyers' big additions on the back end this summer, Ristolainen missed his third consecutive practice Tuesday. Instead, he skated with Kevin Hayes and skills coach Angelo Ricci for rehab work on the opposite ice at Flyers Training Center.
On Sunday, Vigneault said he expected Ellis and Ristolainen back in practice Tuesday.
The Flyers do have time on their side. While the NHL regular season commences Tuesday night, the Flyers don't kick off their schedule until Friday when they host the Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
With another day of absences for his two blueliners, Vigneault on Tuesday said the Flyers are erring on the side of caution.
"Both exactly like I said the other day, it's still maintenance," Vigneault said. "When discussing this with the training staff, we've got a couple of extra days here, so we're being just very cautious, giving them the extra day to heal those bumps and bruises. Expect them both to be back on the ice on Thursday when we skate."
Does Vigneault have concerns about their statuses for Friday's opener?
"At this time, I don't," he said, "but every day is different, so we'll see."
The Flyers will be off the ice Wednesday for team meetings before they practice again Thursday. If Ellis or Ristolainen can't go Thursday, it will be uh-oh time for Friday. But for now, it's wait-and-see mode until Thursday's practice.
Vigneault said Ellis is dealing with a lower-body injury, while Ristolainen has an upper-body issue.
"They're definitely huge," Sean Couturier said about the importance of Ellis and Ristolainen. "They're two of our big acquisitions this offseason on defense. I don't know if they'll be in or out for Game 1, but we're excited to have them with us as soon as possible."
The 30-year-old Ellis plays the game the right way and takes pride in all facets of goal prevention. Via the league's official play-by-play document from Friday's preseason finale, Ellis blocked a shot on his final shift with 1:20 minutes left in the game.
Playing alongside Ivan Provorov as the club's new top defensive pair, Ellis is a critical piece to the Flyers' hopes of drastically cutting down their goals-against figure from last season. In 2020-21, the team surrendered an NHL-worst 3.52 goals per game. Ellis, acquired in a July trade, will be asked to kill penalties, play on the second-unit power play and take on the most important minutes with Provorov at 5-on-5.
Ristolainen, a 6-foot-4, bruising defenseman, is slotted on the Flyers' second defensive pair alongside Travis Sanheim. He's expected to kill penalties, play a physical brand of defense and chip in offensively.
The Flyers submitted their season-opening roster by Monday's 5 p.m. ET deadline and are carrying the minimum of six defensemen to start the campaign.
"Just seeing them, how they fit into the team so far and seeing how they've been on and off the ice, they've been good additions for us," James van Riemsdyk said of Ellis and Ristolainen. "You can see they're going to be big elements to our team. Certainly we hope to have them in the lineup."
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