Thanks for stopping by, Kevin Hayes and Ryan Ellis.
After brief returns to action, both players are back on the injured list. And the Philadelphia Flyers face a tough stretch of games ahead.
The club is currently in the Sunshine State. The Flyers are set to play back-to-back games against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. Then, it’s home for a Black Friday matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes, Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Hayes Seeking Treatment
Hayes returned for two games, and scored a memorable goal against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 16. But he then sat out the Flyers’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last Thursday and 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
After practice on Monday in Tampa, coach Alain Vigneault confirmed that Hayes had re-injured his abdominal muscles against Calgary.
“At this time, all I can say is he’s week-to-week,” Vigneault said. “He re-injured the same injury and we’re in the process of rehabbing. Not exactly sure what the length is going to be.”
Hayes’ goal at 4:37 of the second period drew the Flyers even at 1-1 against Calgary last Tuesday. Later in the second period, he left the game after getting tangled up with Flames forward Elias Lindholm.
Hayes returned for the third period. After the game, he expressed relief that he had “talked to the trainers and we figured it out.” But it seems like that solution was short term.
Hayes did travel to Tampa, but for rehabilitation purposes.
“He’s getting some of his treatments here in Tampa Bay by a specialist that our medical crew was able to find,” Vigneault said. “So he’ll be spending a couple days here.”
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Ellis On The Shelf
Meanwhile, Ryan Ellis logged 18:45 of ice time and notched one assist in the Flyers’ 5-2 road loss in Dallas. After the game, he said he felt fine. But he is also now back on the injured list, with a lower-body issue. Ellis started the season strong on the Flyers’ top defensive pairing. In his first three games, he notched a goal and three assists as the club went 2-0-1. Then, he missed the next nine games. It seemed that the Flyers were taking a cautious rehabilitation approach to his lower-body injury.
Last week, Vigneault projected a four-to-six-week timeline for Ellis’ current absence.
While Ellis has been sidelined, Justin Braun has ably filled in on the Flyers’ top defensive pair. The 34-year-old is averaging 19:48 of ice time per game, over a minute more than last season. He leads all Philadelphia defensemen with eight points but is pointless in his last four games.
Braun’s production is important because Philadelphia has struggled to score for most of this season. Heading into Tuesday’s game in Tampa, the club ranked 22nd in the NHL with an average of 2.69 goals per game. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Flyers rank 27th in expected goal share (46.71%) and dead last in high-danger scoring chances (42.14%). It will be an uphill battle to generate offence this week, against three elite opponents in the Lightning, Panthers and Hurricanes.
Reinforcement Options Are Limited
Hayes and Ellis aren’t the only players in the organization who are on the shelf.
Depth forward Patrick Brown, who was picked up on waivers on Oct. 11, suffered a thumb injury against the Flames and is considered week-to-week.
On the farm in Lehigh Valley, the AHL Phantoms sit last in the Atlantic Division with a record of 3-8-4-1. Flyers’ assistant general manager Brent Flahr went over a litany of the team’s injury issues with Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer this week.
The good news: winger Wade Allison is now practicing after suffering a high ankle sprain during rookie camp in September. Allison, 24, impressed with his high-energy playing style when he made his NHL debut late last season. In 14 games, he also put up seven points (4 goals, 3 assists).
But another top prospect, 2020 first-round pick Tyson Foerster, has seen his development stalled. Foerster fought through a number of injuries last season but impressed while he was healthy, putting up 17 points in 24 games with the Phantoms. Now 19, Foerster managed just three points in nine games this season. He suffered a shoulder injury in early November that’s expected to sideline him for five months.
Other injured Phantoms players who are missing significant time include defenseman Sam Morin and forwards Tanner Laczynski, Ryan Fitzgerald and Linus Sandin. Defensemen Wyatte Wylie and Mason Millman are closer to returning from injuries of their own.
Frost Earning Attention
After failing to impress during training camp, 2017 first-round pick Morgan Frost is off to a good start this season. Known primarily for his offence, he leads the Phantoms with three goals and 12 assists for 15 points in 16 games.
While Hayes has been sidelined, veterans Derick Brassard and Nate Thompson have ably played larger-than-expected roles in the middle for the Flyers. But if the club’s offensive woes continue, Frost could be a consideration. The 22-year-old went pointless in two NHL games last season before suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery. During his 20-game audition in the 2019-20 season, he teased his potential by chipping in two goals and five assists.