The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every team in the National Hockey League. Especially the Philadelphia Flyers as of late.
The Flyers will be playing their first game since Feb. 7 when they host the New York Rangers on Thursday. Philadelphia’s roster will look much different with seven key players on the virus list including captain Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Oskar Lindblom, Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton.
In this unique season, there’s no time to complain.
“It shouldn’t be difficult to be competitive,” said center Kevin Hayes. “It’s just the ‘next man up’ mentality. We’re obviously down some important players, but I think everyone’s going to compete. Whether you’re a regular in this lineup or you just got called up and you’re playing your first game, everyone in this locker room’s going to compete their hardest and give it their all.
“I think we’ll be fine.”
Four players called up from the taxi squad participated in Tuesday’s practice. Expect line changes against the Rangers.
“Guys are going to have to jump on the opportunity and make the best of it,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said.
Moving forward, the Flyers don’t know which players will be available. In this condensed 56-game regular season, games can be bunched together.
Add in the uncertainty of players on the virus list and teams must be prepared to be flexible.
“Let’s hope that the ones who do get it stay healthy, which is what has happened so far, and let’s hope that this is it and we get back to playing some hockey,” Vigneault said. “We’ve got four games that we’ve got to make up in a very condensed schedule already.”
The Rangers will be hoping to avoid a fifth consecutive loss when they battle the Flyers.
In their most recent game Tuesday, the Rangers fell 5-2 to the New Jersey Devils.
Colin Blackwell and Pavel Buchnevich each scored for the Rangers while goaltender Igor Shesterkin stopped 32 shots. But the Rangers looked out of sync and made too many mistakes, which was evident in the result.
“We’ve got to understand the difference between winning and losing and what you need to do to do it,” Rangers head coach David Quinn said. “You would think we would generate some momentum getting that goal at the end of the second (period). It just didn’t happen. A lot of things didn’t happen tonight for us.”
The Devils played their first game following a two-week COVID-19 pause and dominated the Rangers in every aspect. If New York hopes to win a tough road game at Philadelphia, the effort must be much better.
“For the majority of the game they outhit us, outskated us, outworked us, won more battles,” Chris Kreider said. “I mean, chances aside, we got away from the things that we were doing well. They flat-out wanted it more. I mean, it’s unacceptable.”
The Rangers have managed only four victories this season.
“We were really listless and lifeless, and it’s unacceptable,” Kreider said of the start against the Devils. “Has to be better going forward. It starts with — doesn’t start with anyone — it’s every single guy in that room, and we all have to be better and we all know it.”
–Field Level Media