Twelve Flyers NHL roster players and four Taxi Squad players practiced at the Skate Zone in Voorhees on Tuesday morning as the team returned to the ice for the first time since last Tuesday. Based on individual quarantine requirements, eligible players were permitted to practice either on Tuesday or Wednesday. The Flyers are scheduled to host the New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday evening.
The list of Tuesday's skaters was as follows (T= taxi squad): Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hägg, Mark Friedman, Kevin Hayes, Nolan Patrick, Joel Farabee, Michael Raffl, Connor Bunnaman, Carter Hart, Brian Elliott, Andy Andreoff (T), Derrick Pouliot (T), David Kase (T), and Maksim Sushko (T).
According to Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, seven players tested negative on Monday and were allowed to practice today. Another eight are anticipated to be available to practice tomorrow.
"We have some players that tested positive and some others in quarantine. Certainly the last four days we've seen a positive trend and we're hopeful to continue in that direction and play on Thursday night," Fletcher said.
Video: Fletcher speaks to media
The GM was asked if the Flyers have had discussions with NHL as pertains to the outdoor game in Lake Tahoe on Sunday.
"Not to my knowledge. I've been in daily contact with Bill Daly and the sole focus right now is the health and safety of our players," he said.
Fletcher also clarified how the NHL's Taxi Squad rules -- which allow a maximum of six players on it at a time -- work in a situation such as the one the Flyers are going through. Players on the Taxi Squad, based on their COVID status and quarantine plan, can be temporarily exempted while they are unavailable. According to Fletcher, assistant general manager Barry Hanrahan has been very busy in recent days, staying in contact with the NHL to make sure the Flyers stay in compliance both with the salary cap ceiling and the Taxi Squad limits.
None of the seven Flyers players currently in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol players returned to practice on Tuesday: Claude Giroux (who entered the protocol on Feb. 9), Justin Braun (Feb. 9), Jakub Voracek (Feb. 11), the already injured Morgan Frost (Feb. 11), Oskar Lindblom (Feb. 12), Scott Laughton (Feb. 12) and Travis Konecny (added Feb. 14, the same day Travis Sanheim's name was removed).
Vigneault said that he does not anticipate having any of the players who tested positive for coronavirus to be available to return for Thursday's game against the Rangers. However, both he and Fletcher expect for the team to be able to dress 18 healthy skaters and two goaltenders for Thursday's game. There will be a full practice on Wednesday with all players available to play the Rangers expected to be on the ice for practice.
Given that the Flyers have been off the ice for a week and the moving parts in the lineup, Thursday's match will be a gut-check for the club. Vigneault emphasized, however, that no excuses will be accepted.
"It's an opportunity for [Taxi Squad players] to get a chance to play. Some guys have been waiting for that opportunity for quite some time, and now because of our situation, because of players that are under the covid protocol, there's opportunity. Guys are going to have to jump on the opportunity and make the best of it," Vigneault said.
"We should have a full practice tomorrow with the group that is available to us, and that will be the group that is going to play against the Rangers on Thursday. We might have different possibilities, dress 6 [defensemen] and 12 [forwards], 7 and 11. We'll see how practice goes tomorrow. We basically haven't seen anybody for the past week, we've been in lockdown. Other than coming in in the morning and some days it's one test, other days it was two, we've just been in and out. Originally I thought we would have more than one full day of practice to get ready, but that was changed yesterday. It is what it is, and what it is is a full team practice tomorrow, morning skate on Thursday, play Thursday night. So we've got to be ready for that."
Video: Vigneault speaks to media
Hayes said that the available players are taking the same approach to preparing for Thursday.
"It shouldn't be difficult to be competitive. It's a 'next-man-up' mentality. We're going to be without some good players but everyone will be ready to compete and ready to go," Hayes said.
Fortunately, Vigneault said that all of the Flyers' players who have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past week either have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. That, however, does not lessen the anxiety that comes along with positive cases and team-wide individual quarantine plans.
"Without a doubt it's been concerning to everyone. My players have wives, girlfriends, kids, parents. Obviously this is concerning. We all have coaches and management, have our own families, and when they hear it from so far away, obviously everyone is concerned and they want to know that everyone is doing all right. It is something that I don't understand how it came about but it did come about," Vigneault said.
"We're following the rules, we're very strict on all the protocols, but it came in and now we have to deal with it and hopefully stay safe and get back to playing hockey, and get back to playing winning hockey."
Video: Hayes speaks to media