VOORHEES, N.J. — As the unbeaten Panthers come to town Saturday night, the Flyers may be without a top-pair defenseman.
Ryan Ellis' status for the game is nebulous after the all-situation blueliner had to miss practice Friday because of an undisclosed injury. Head coach Alain Vigneault did not express confidence in Ellis' availability for Saturday.
"He's had some bumps and we might not be able to use him tomorrow," Vigneault said Friday. "I'll have a better idea tomorrow."
Along with Ellis, Cam Atkinson did not practice. The winger may have been banged up after taking a spill into the boards on his third-period goal Wednesday night in the Flyers' 6-3 win over the Bruins. But Vigneault did not sound concerned about Atkinson's status.
"In Cam's case, it's a maintenance day and I have good confidence that he will be in the lineup tomorrow," Vigneault said. "In Ryan's case, I don't have that same confidence. We'll know a little bit more later on today."
No Ellis on Saturday would be a big loss for the Flyers. Florida is clicking on all cylinders as it visits the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP). Joel Quenneville's team has a lot of ingredients. The Panthers are 4-0-0 and have outscored the opposition 18-7. Their wins have come over the Penguins, Islanders, Lightning and Avalanche.
"That team right now, I've watched a lot of hockey lately, they're one of the best in the NHL," Vigneault said. "They've beaten the defending Stanley Cup champions, they're on top of their game, they're skilled, they play heavy. It's going to be a great hockey game tomorrow."
After the Flyers (2-0-1) wrap up their season-opening four-game homestand Saturday, they head to Western Canada for a three-game road trip starting Wednesday.
"I figure it should be short term," Vigneault said of Ellis' issue, "he should be all right for the trip."
Ellis missed three practices last week because of a lower-body injury. Vigneault was uncertain if Ellis' current injury was related to the one he was nursing after the preseason finale Oct. 8. Via the league's official play-by-play document from the exhibition game, Ellis blocked a shot on his final shift with 1:20 minutes left in the game.
"I just had a minor thing that was kind of flaring up," Ellis said Oct. 14 when he returned to practice. "It wasn't anything serious; it was just more precautionary than anything."
If Ellis is unavailable Saturday, Nick Seeler will be recalled to play alongside Keith Yandle. Justin Braun would move up to the Flyers' top pair next to Ivan Provorov.
In promising health news for the Flyers, Patrick Brown took part in his first practice with the club. Brown, who was claimed off of waivers Oct. 11, had been in quarantine as he recovered from a bout with the coronavirus. He tested positive after arriving to Philadelphia from Las Vegas with his wife and their 13-month-old son Wellington. Instead of watching Brown in the Flyers' season-opening lineup, they were at standstill together in their hotel.
"I was just happy for him," Vigneault said of seeing Brown at practice Friday. "There's a young man that gets picked up off waivers, he goes into the COVID protocol, his wife goes into the COVID protocol, his 13-month kid goes into the COVID protocol. That's a long time. You want to make a good impression, you have to stay isolated for a number of days. Finally, back today. I really liked what I saw on the ice. Probably give him a couple of practices.
"Poor guy, I hope everything falls into place here. Seems like a real nice young man. ... Hopefully we can get him in here and he can show us what he can do."
The 29-year-old forward will need more practice time before the Flyers put him in the lineup.
"I wasn't supposed to do too much," Brown said. "I don't know the exact science, but you're not supposed to do too much while you're sick with it. So we were mostly just resting, but I was able to stretch and do a little yoga, try and stay loose so that it would be easier to get back into shape."
Brown was just happy to be back out there. He led post-practice stretches and received stick taps from his new teammates.
"It was great, we've got a great group of guys here," Brown said. "They were super welcoming and smiling and laughing and having fun. You miss that when you're in quarantine.
"A whole bunch of them reached out and asked how I was feeling, they were being great. It was an unlucky situation, but my wife and son and I made the best of it and the team really helped us out, gave us everything we needed, so it was great."
With the company of his wife and son, Brown stayed upbeat.
"It was an unlucky bounce but the team was playing great and they were fun to watch," he said. "I tried to to turn it into a positive, I got to watch the systems and try to watch the other guys play a little bit more focused.
"It was a little crazy, but we kept our spirits. We were just happy to be in Philly and be together. We're all healthy, so moving forward."
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