The Philadelphia Flyers will start their holiday break early.
But before they join the rest of the NHL for the rescheduled Christmas shutdown from Dec. 22-25, Mike Yeo’s group will get a chance to extend its point streak to six games. The Flyers are set to host the undermanned Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center, while the Philadelphia Eagles are set to take on the Washington Football Team at the same time (7 p.m. ET), across the street at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Flyers were also set to visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. That contest has now been postponed amidst a massive wave of schedule adjustments. More than 100 players and a number of coaches around the league were in Covid protocol as of Monday. That number seems to change by the hour are more names are added and a handful are removed.
Kevin Hayes Into Protocol; Carter Hart Returns
After extending their point streak to five games with a 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the Flyers took Sunday off, then practiced on Monday at their training facility in Voorhees, N.J.
Carter Hart, who missed Saturday’s game due to illness, was back with his team. Later, general manager Chuck Fletcher confirmed that Hart had been ill but did not test positive for Covid-19.
Meanwhile, after Kevin Hayes left the ice part way through practice, the club confirmed that his departure was due to a positive Covid test. He now Morgan Frost, Max Willman and two Flyers staff members in Covid protocols.
Sean Couturier also missed Monday’s practice, taking a maintenance day.
“Sean’s been battling with various upper and lower body issues all year,” Fletcher said. “Give him credit — he’s a warrior. He keeps playing hard, but on a day like today, it’s an opportunity for him to rest up and be at his best when it matters in a game situation, and not sort of waste his energy for a practice day. So we’re battling with that, doing the best we can.”
Capitals Forward Group Is Decimated
If Tuesday’s game against Washington does go ahead, the Flyers will be facing a severely depleted Washington Capitals roster. Alexander Ovechkin is basically shouldering the load for his entire forward group. Russian Machine Never Breaks, indeed.
Ovechkin went pointless for just the second time in 14 games in Washington’s 3-2 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. That game that was played with Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie all in Covid protocol, and Tom Wilson sidelined with an upper-body injury.
The Capitals have been crushed by injuries and illness all season.
— Man-Games Lost NHL (@ManGamesLostNHL) December 16, 2021
Other teams have lost more man games, but the importance of the players that Washington has had sidelined is as high as any team in the league. But there’s Ovechkin, with 21 points in 14 games since Nov. 20 to put himself right behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for the league scoring lead. And just a single point against the Flyers on Tuesday will send the Caps into the holiday break in first place in the Eastern Conference.
Flyers Injury Updates
Of course, the size of the Flyers’ injury bubble in the graphic above is also pretty substantial.
The absence of Ryan Ellis remains significant and doesn’t sound likely to end anytime soon. One of Fletcher’s biggest offseason acquisitions, the blueliner who turns 31 in January has appeared in just four games to date in a Philadelphia uniform but has five points in his limited ice time.
“He’s been skating a little bit, so that’s progress,” said Fletcher on Monday. “He’s feeling better and clearly he won’t play before the break. Once we come out of the break, we’re hopeful that he’ll be closer to playing. But it’s still a week-to-week situation.”
Ellis’s last game action came on Nov. 13, when the Flyers lost 5-2 in Dallas on the second half of a road back-to-back.
Fletcher also offered updates on two other injured players.
“Derick Brassard has been skating,” he said. “He’s getting closer. He’s day-to-day, I would say. I don’t think he’s a player for (Tuesdsay), but he’s making good progress, feeling better.
“Wade Allison — it’s an elbow injury. He’s being seen by a specialist here and we’ll have more news on him as it becomes available.”
Brassard’s lower-body injury has kept him out of 11 of the Flyers’ last 12 games.
— Tony Androckitis (@TonyAndrock) December 18, 2021
Allison was injured on Dec. 17, in his third game of the year with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. An ankle injury suffered during Flyers’ training camp had kept him off the ice until Dec. 1.
Olympic Dreams On Life Support
Even with Covid flare-ups on several teams, the NHL made it through the first two months of the season with just five game postponements.
Since Dec. 13, 39 more games have been postponed….and counting?
At the league’s Board of Governors meetings in Florida earlier this month, commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear that, while the NHL wanted to honor its commitment to Olympic participation in Beijing in February, “any material disruption to our season” would give the league the right to withdraw that commitment.
This week’s postponements have definitely crossed that threshold.
And it’s not yet clear whether the holiday break will be enough to provide the reset the league needs to get back onto its regular schedule after Christmas. Potential border restrictions could also become an issue if the Omicron variant continues to rage.
Don’t be surprised if an announcement of Olympic withdrawal is dropped quietly later this week, just as everyone is closing up shop before Christmas.
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