VOORHEES, N.J. — With the defending Stanley Cup champions coming to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time, the Flyers are suddenly dealing with a whole other set of issues they haven’t experienced this season.
Perhaps for the first time the Flyers could be without two of their top six forwards.
Nolan Patrick missed Tuesday’s practice after taking a shot to the back of the head in the first period of last Sunday’s game against the Islanders and Jakub Voracek (lower-body injury) will be reevaluated Wednesday but has already been ruled out for the game against the Capitals.
Voracek has been playing some of his best hockey, at least offensively, with nine points in his last four games, while helping solidify the team’s second line with Sean Couturier and Oskar Lindblom.
Patrick hasn’t been ruled out after skating in a separate group with injured goaltenders Carter Hart and Michal Neuvirth. The Flyers' center will be reevaluated after the morning skate Wednesday.
“Practice today was kind of weird missing a lot of players,” Claude Giroux said. “We know the position we’re in right now. These two points [Wednesday] are going to be huge for us. We need to find chemistry and find it fast.”
Finding chemistry wasn’t much of an issue Sunday against the Islanders. After losing Patrick just five minutes into the game, the Flyers responded with two first-period goals with interim head coach Scott Gordon mixing and matching his lines with just 10 forwards.
“Guys have to step up and play more minutes,” Scott Laughton said. “It’s a good challenge for a lot of our guys and to step up into a role you’re not necessarily thrown into in a normal game.”
Such was the case Sunday for Corban Knight, playing in just his fourth game back from injury, who was called upon to play over 17 minutes, the most ice time he had ever seen in an NHL game, which could be a similar situation once again if Patrick can’t play Wednesday.
In that event, Gordon will go with his combination of 11 forwards and seven defensemen for a fourth time this season. The Flyers are 3-0-0 in those games in which Gordon has used the extra defenseman.
“It keeps [Andrew MacDonald] in the mix because at some point you've got to keep everybody involved, because there are going to be injuries, so I think that’s a better option for us,” Gordon said. “If everybody’s in the right position, it shouldn’t matter who’s on the ice.”
Under Gordon recently, learning to play with anyone at any time has been a big key for the Flyers, now 16-3-2 since Jan. 14. That’s why line combinations have become almost meaningless at times as forwards have adapted to taking shifts with teammates with little or no practice time together.
“I showed the guys this morning a clip from the third period [Sunday] where all three forwards change one at a time and throughout that we maintained our neutral-zone forecheck,” Gordon said. “Part of that recognition is that we don’t want to change wholesale. We want to make sure we’re changing one at a time in the right situation.”
It’s a go-with-the-flow mentality, and right now, there’s a lot of flow to the Flyers' system.
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