VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher held a press conference Tuesday to talk all things about his club at the quarter mark of the 2021-22 season.
Through 20 games, the Flyers are 8-8-4 and have lost six straight, their longest losing skid in the Alain Vigneault era. As Fletcher's team tries to desperately stem the tide, it's hoping to get some reinforcements.
The Flyers are struggling but also hobbling. They've battled injuries to key pieces on their big club roster and down at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.
Let's get into the updates on those injuries.
Hayes (abdominal) practiced Tuesday and was a full participant. The Flyers are hopeful the second-line center can return to the lineup Wednesday when they visit the Rangers (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).
"He's still on the ice, so we'll see how he feels," Fletcher said as practice was wrapping up. "He really wants to play, he's made tremendous progress the last week. He told me yesterday this is the best he's felt in over a year."
Hayes suffered a reinjury on Nov. 16 in his second game back from an abdominal surgery recovery. The 29-year-old had to undergo the procedure Sept. 21, two days before training camp. It was his second type of abdominal surgery in fewer than four months.
The Flyers could use Hayes' presence. The 6-foot-5 pivot plays in all situations and the Flyers have been banged up down the middle of the ice.
On Tuesday, Hayes received stick taps from his teammates as he led post-practice stretches.
"It's real positive and we're hopeful for tomorrow but we'll see probably how he feels tomorrow morning," Fletcher said.
Brassard (lower body) joined Hayes in returning to practice but the news was not nearly as positive for the 34-year-old center.
"Derick's got a bit of a hip issue," Fletcher said. "He skated for a bit today and felt some tweaking in his lower body."
The Flyers are hoping Brassard is more day to day than week to week. After Wednesday's game, the Flyers don't play again until Sunday. But Sunday is when the schedule gets busy as the Flyers start a stretch of five games in seven days.
Brassard suffered the injury a week ago and has missed the last three games. Morgan Frost will continue to play in his stead.
Twelve days ago, Vigneault said Ellis (lower body) would be out four to six weeks. That status still looks the same with late December or Jan. 1 as a range for when the top-pair defenseman could return.
"He's made good progress," Fletcher said. "He's undergone some treatment about a week ago that requires him to kind of lay low for about a week. So he's going to resume his rehab tomorrow. He feels good, he feels like he's making progress."
Ellis' issue appears to be to the hip/groin area. The 30-year-old was Fletcher's biggest offseason addition and the Flyers have had him for only four games. They're starting to sorely miss his do-it-all makeup, while Ivan Provorov hasn't been the same player without Ellis.
"In terms of return to play, we'll see how he feels tomorrow and the next few days after rehabbing," Fletcher said. "We're still week to week. I can't imagine he'd play next week, but he's making progress. He's been battling this since that Washington game in the preseason."
As expected, the news on Thompson (shoulder) wasn't good. The fourth-line center underwent surgery Tuesday at the Steadman Clinic in Colorado.
"He'll miss a significant amount of time," Fletcher said. "I'll wait until [Flyers director of medical services Jim McCrossin] speaks to the surgeon to see the exact prognosis. But clearly he'll be out a substantial amount of time."
The 37-year-old suffered the injury near the end of the Flyers' 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes on Black Friday.
The Flyers are turning to Connor Bunnaman for depth at center in the absences of Brassard and Thompson.
The Flyers will look to Brown (thumb) for help at center when he's healthy.
Brown, who can also play winger, suffered his injury Nov. 16, the same game Hayes reinjured himself. The 29-year-old bottom-six forward is seeing a hand specialist Wednesday and could be back at some point next week when the Flyers' schedule picks up.
"The question for him obviously will be the ability to hold the stick, pain a little bit, ability to shoot and pass and all that," Fletcher said. "Hopefully he can play sometime next week. I don't know if he's a candidate for Sunday or Monday. We play five in seven, hopefully there's a possibility he can get back next week."
Allison (ankle) is nearing games with the Phantoms. The 24-year-old winger has been skating and recently joined Lehigh Valley for practice.
"He's skating hard and I think there's a possibility he'll play this weekend in Lehigh Valley," Fletcher said. "But we'll see. It's a tough injury, made a lot of progress, skating hard, pushing it and we'll just continue to see how his ankle responds."
Allison would be a nice lift to the Flyers' bottom six. He would certainly be a candidate to help the Flyers' 26th-ranked goals per game figure (2.45) and 28th-ranked power play percentage (13.1).
Allison has been out since Sept. 19 when he suffered his injury in the second rookie game.
Foerster (shoulder) has a "long road ahead of him here," Fletcher said.
The 2020 first-round pick underwent shoulder surgery after suffering his injury earlier this month with the Phantoms.
"It's months," Fletcher said of the recovery. "I think the hope would be we can get him back healthy and get him some games before the end of the year."
The 19-year-old winger is one of the Flyers' top prospects.
Fletcher said the play in which Foerster sustained the injury was "terrible luck." Foerster dove to keep the puck in the offensive zone on a Lehigh Valley power play and his shoulder dislocated.
Wisdom (shoulder) is back skating with his OHL club Kingston and nearing games for the Frontenacs.
The 2020 fourth-round pick has been out since August when he underwent surgery.
"He's doing incredible," Fletcher said. "Believe me, he wants to play yesterday. He's doing great, skating every day. The surgeon I believe would like him to wait at least one more week to play so he satisfies the time frame that he wanted."
With no OHL season last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 19-year-old winger played at the pro level and registered 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) through 28 games for the Phantoms. He's eligible for only junior hockey this season.
"He's ready to rock and roll," Fletcher said. "He's excited and we're excited to see him play in the next week."
York (COVID protocol) missed the Phantoms' last two games.
"I think he'll be able to start skating by the weekend I believe if all going well," Fletcher said.
The 2019 first-round pick is a point-producing defenseman with loads of skill. He's 20 years old and playing his first full season at the pro level.
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