VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers had a promising attendance on the ice at Wednesday's practice a day after Morgan Frost had to be pulled during the middle of a game because of COVID protocols.
The club did not have any absences, aside from Frost and Derick Brassard, who is recovering from a hip injury.
With Frost out, the Flyers called up Jackson Cates from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The 24-year-old will enter the lineup on the fourth line Thursday when the Flyers visit the Canadiens (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).
Interim head coach Mike Yeo could not disclose whether Frost tested positive for the coronavirus. Clubs originally tested every 72 hours, but the league's decision Wednesday to enhance protocols will make testing daily for now.
With the upcoming trip to Montreal, the Flyers underwent testing Tuesday before their game that night at the Wells Fargo Center. During the first period of the team's 6-1 win over the Devils, Frost was removed from the game after playing only 1:12 minutes. As a result, the Flyers were tested again Wednesday and, to Yeo's knowledge, there were no positive results.
"I didn't hear that, but I'm quite certain that I would have heard it and somebody would have been removed," Yeo said.
For Frost, his situation is uncertain.
"He's in COVID protocol right now and unavailable for us," Yeo said. "I'm not sure what the timeline is on that but obviously not going to be with us for the next couple of days here."
According to the NHL's COVID protocol document for the 2021-22 season, if a player tests as a confirmed positive but is asymptomatic, he will undergo daily lab-based RT-PCR tests. And if the player has two or more consecutive negative tests, he is eligible to exit his isolation and return as long as it adheres with local health laws.
If a player tests as a confirmed positive and is symptomatic, he must remain out for at least 10 days from when he originally felt symptoms, as well as at least 24 hours from his last fever.
"I don't know if it's different for a player with symptoms, a player without symptoms," Yeo said. "The only thing that I'll say is we'll follow the rules, we'll do everything we can to be careful.
"You look around the league, the world, it's obviously out there right now and things are getting a little bit crazier. I think the message that we had to the group this morning is obviously we have to be careful here, we have to be smart. But at the same time, we can't afford any distractions right now. We're in a dogfight and we're still trying to work and build on our game. You take the precautions that you need but we've got to make sure that when we come to the rink, we're ready to work and prepare and play."
The Flames have had four games postponed this week because of COVID protocols, while the Hurricanes and Wild had their game called off Tuesday night.
"It's always tough and stressful when COVID is going around the league," Oskar Lindblom said.
"When you know it's going around, you have to be more careful. Wear masks more often and try to stay in the hotel a little more. Nothing different, we're kind of used to it now."
Last year, the Flyers endured a COVID-19 shutdown for a week in February. It had serious ripple effects on their season as six key regulars had 14-day quarantines after testing positive and the team didn't get its full lineup back until March 2.
With vaccinations, the NHL and the world are in much better shape now to combat COVID-19. But as Yeo noted, the virus has not vanished.
The Flyers (11-12-4) head to Montreal on a season-best three-game winning streak. At forward, they're currently without Brassard, Joel Farabee (shoulder) and Nate Thompson (shoulder). Thompson is out long term after undergoing surgery two weeks ago while Brassard is on the roster but still working his way back from a nagging hip issue.
Farabee, however, is nearing. He rehab skated Monday and joined practice in limited fashion. He rehab skated again Wednesday and then practiced pretty close to full capacity. He won't play Thursday but could return soon. The Flyers host the Senators on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and the Capitals next Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/ESPN+, Hulu).
"He actually did more than I was expecting him to today, which is great," Yeo said. "He was able to get into some of the contact drills. I would say that today was a full practice for Joel. He's not a player tomorrow, but the fact that he was able to have that practice today is a real good sign. I don't want to say that he's going to play this weekend, but certainly he's becoming a possibility as things get closer here given what he was able to do today.
"Whether it's on the penalty kill, power play, 5-on-5, he is a huge player for us. We're excited to get him back."
On Thursday night, Lindblom will jump up to the Flyers' second line at left winger, which is where Frost had been playing. Cates will play fourth-line left winger. The college product is a defensively responsible forward who can play both center and winger. Thursday night will be his season debut after he played four games in 2020-21.
Wade Allison's shot with the Flyers doesn't appear too far down the road. The 24-year-old winger hasn't played for the big club this season because of a high ankle sprain, but he joined the Phantoms' lineup last weekend.
Was he in the mix for this call-up?
"No question he was," Yeo said. "He's a guy that we all think very highly of, we just felt number one, that it was a little bit early. Number two, for the role that we're looking for as far as left winger playing on the fourth line, the identity that we want with that line, that's one thing, but also a left shot in that position. Number three, Jackson's earned this call-up, as well. From everything that I understand, the limited time that I've watched him play, he has really bought into the role and the identity that he needs to have to be a pro hockey player. We're expecting him to come up and provide that same mindset here."
Here's how the Flyers' lineup will look Thursday night:
Scott Laughton-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Claude Giroux-Cam Atkinson
Max Willman-Kevin Hayes-James van Riemsdyk
Jackson Cates-Patrick Brown-Zack MacEwen
Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim-Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle-Kevin Connauton
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