VOORHEES, N.J. — On Tuesday at Flyers Training Center, Ryan Ellis and Kevin Hayes weren't just a duo.
They took part in a full team practice.
"They're both progressing nicely," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said.
Ellis has missed the Flyers' last seven games because of a nagging lower-body injury. Hayes has been out after having to undergo his second type of abdominal surgery two days before the start of training camp.
Recently, they've been on the ice together a lot with a coach, rehabbing their respective injuries as a twosome.
"Obviously we're both in similar situations," Ellis said Tuesday. "It sucks, it sucks being in this situation. But it's easier when you go through it with someone rather than doing it alone. We've gotten to skate together and bond over the suck, more or less. He's great. Great attitude, great teammate. I think he's champing at the bit to get back, as am I. Going through the suck with someone else, it's better than doing it alone."
In Tuesday's practice, Ellis skated on the third defensive pair with Keith Yandle, while Justin Braun remained on the top pair alongside Ivan Provorov. Vigneault said there's an "outside chance" Ellis returns Wednesday when the Flyers welcome the Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSP). If Ellis suits up against Toronto, the Flyers will "ease him in," according to Vigneault, so they won't have him start on the No. 1 pair with Provorov.
As for Hayes, Vigneault said the earliest the second-line center might play is Tuesday of next week. Hayes has been cleared to fully practice and participate in contact situations, but needs more time before he joins the Flyers' lineup.
After the Flyers host the Maple Leafs, they hit the road for a back-to-back set. They face the Hurricanes on Friday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and the Stars on Saturday (8 p.m. ET/NBCSP+). The Flyers then come back home to play the Flames on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
If Ellis can't play Wednesday, the Flyers are hoping he'll be available at some point over the two-game road trip.
"He will only go on the road this week if he's going to play one of the two games or both possibly," Vigneault said Tuesday. "We'll see how he responds tomorrow. I'm not saying that he won't play tomorrow; I haven't talked to [Flyers director of medical services Jim McCrossin] yet. ... If he doesn't play tomorrow and practices Thursday and feels good, might be one of those two."
Ellis is dealing with the same issue that kept him out for three consecutive practices after the club's preseason finale and prior to its regular-season opener. The specifics of his injury haven't been disclosed, but it appears to be an issue to the hip/groin area. The all-situation defenseman was able to play in the Flyers' first three contests and logged 24:09 minutes per game, four points (one goal, three assists) and a plus-3 rating.
"I've never dealt with it," Ellis said. "It happened the last preseason game. I thought I could manage it, played three and the third one, it more or less failed me. Couldn't continue and here's where we're at.
"Today was just kind of see how it goes and it felt pretty good. Hopefully it continues to feel good and just keep going from there."
Ellis couldn't say whether he would play Wednesday. Given the Flyers are only 10 games into their season (6-2-2), they want to get Ellis right for the long haul.
"We're sitting in a good spot, the team is playing well, so there's not really a case to push it," Ellis said. "But if it was playoffs, I've played through a lot worse than this. It's something that you want to be smart about and we're not dealing with down the road. I'm sure that's a bit of it, but as well as playing hurt is hard. It's not fun, I've done that a lot. So if we have a chance to give it time — our schedule's not overly packed yet but I know it will be — me personally, I'm hoping it's better for when it gets busier."
Ellis and Hayes are two important players for the Flyers. Their return dates are still to be determined, but Tuesday didn't suck as much.
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