Two timely returns for Flyers; will a top defensive prospect get a look?


VOORHEES, N.J. — Kevin Hayes and Morgan Frost exited the NHL's COVID protocol Tuesday and hit the ice for practice at Flyers Training Center.

Both are headed to Seattle and will give the Flyers a much-needed lift down the middle of the ice. As they open a four-game West Coast trip with a matchup Wednesday against the Kraken (10 p.m. ET/NBCSP), the Flyers will be without Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton and Derick Brassard. All three forwards, along with goalie Carter Hart, are in the NHL's COVID protocol.

Hayes was removed from the start of practice just over a week ago but was asymptomatic. With two games postponed last week ahead of the NHL-mandated holiday break, Hayes didn't miss any games.

"My COVID battle wasn't too bad; I know it's a serious thing," Hayes said. "I had no symptoms at all, was shocked I tested positive but I did. I did my quarantine and felt pretty good on the ice today."

Frost had been out longer. He was symptomatic and missed 13 days (holiday break included) after being pulled during the first period of the Flyers' game Dec. 14.

"Mine wasn't very bad at all," Frost said. "I just felt a little lousy for like the first day or two. ... I felt fine right after and I feel healthy.


"To be honest, I thought I was actually going to feel worse in the practice there, but I felt pretty good. Just tried to stay in shape as much as I could. It was a weird time to have that long off, but I feel good."

If Hayes and Frost need time to get up to speed, the Flyers will ask them to do so in game action. After all, the team as a whole might have to shake some rust, having not played for 10 days.

"We don't have the luxury of waiting to see how things go or giving them a little extra time. These are important players for us," Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo said. "I haven't had the opportunity to talk to them post-practice yet, but obviously you're watching as things are going, you're watching the battle drills — we had a lot of compete, we had a lot of up and down the ice — and I thought that they held up fine."

Hayes won't make excuses but his game will take time to round back into form after the 6-foot-5 center had to undergo two abdominal surgeries in fewer than four months before the season. He's still an effective player when he's not 100 percent himself and the Flyers need any ounce of him right now.

Playing 15:10 minutes per game, Hayes has six points (two goals, four assists) through 11 games.

"Kevin is such an important player for our team," Yeo said. "We've got Coots coming out. The matchups that Coots has, night in and night out — defensively, going head to head against the top D-men, against the top offensive lines. For a guy like Kevin to be able to go in, if he can fill that spot — and we believe that he can — with his size, his ability to control the puck, his ability to make plays but also make the reads defensively that we need him to make, that's what I see when I see Kevin playing his best game. I see a guy that's really hard to play against on the defensive side, but he's a guy that's real hard to get the puck off of."

Frost will center James van Riemsdyk and Gerry Mayhew on the Flyers' third line. Mayhew, who turns 29 years old on New Year's Eve Friday, signed a one-year deal in the offseason. He has nine goals and seven assists through 24 games at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. In 2019-20, Mayhew put up 39 goals and 61 points over 49 games with Minnesota's AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild. The undrafted product has 17 games on his NHL résumé.

"He's not a young kid coming in, he's a guy that does have some experience playing in the league," Yeo said. "A guy that has the ability to make some plays. ... When you're looking to insert somebody onto that line, a guy like Frosty, guys like Reemer, it's nice to have the ability to create something offensively."


A surprise addition to practice was 20-year-old defensive prospect Cam York. The 2019 first-round pick was added to the Flyers' taxi squad along with goaltender Kirill Ustimenko. With coronavirus cases rising throughout the NHL and the country, the Flyers are in a daily wait-and-see mode. Other than Ryan Ellis, who was already out with a lower-body injury, the club didn't have any defensemen on the COVID protocol list Tuesday. But York was called up for insurance reasons with the four-game road swing ahead. The Flyers flew to Seattle on Tuesday afternoon with eight blueliners and three goalies.

Could York see his season debut on the trip? It's possible, but the Flyers would likely have to experience serious woes on the back end or an injury/COVID-related absence for York to enter the lineup.

"I don't know, to be honest with you," Yeo said. "As far as asking will he get in or not, kind of like any time, we'll take this one game at a time. We'll go into that game tomorrow in Seattle and then make the reads after that.

"The thought process as far as bringing him, if you need a guy — whether it's performance related, whether it's because of everything that's going on with COVID and injuries and you're all the way out in the West Coast — if we need a guy, let's call up somebody that can help us. Yorky, in seeing what he did for us at the end the year last year and seeing how his game is progressing and coming along this year, we know what he's capable of. He's a guy that we're comfortable putting in the lineup if that opportunity is there for him."

After dropping 10 straight games, the Flyers are on a season-best five-game point streak (4-0-1). They're 12-12-5 overall and are set to play their first game since Dec. 18, when they beat the Senators, 4-3, in overtime.

"Obviously every game in this league is important to get two points, but when you go through a losing streak that we did, every game becomes important," Hayes said. "We've been able to battle back in these last five here and had a pretty good groove going. I think guys are really excited to get back on the ice and to kind of keep trending toward the right way."

Here is the Flyers' lineup for Wednesday, barring anything unforeseen.


Oskar Lindblom-Claude Giroux-Cam Atkinson

Joel Farabee-Kevin Hayes-Travis Konecny

James van Riemsdyk-Morgan Frost-Gerry Mayhew

Max Willman-Patrick Brown-Zack MacEwen


Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun

Travis Sanheim-Rasmus Ristolainen

Keith Yandle-Kevin Connauton


Martin Jones

Felix Sandstrom

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