(Photo: Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)
By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
The Flyers took to the ice on Saturday for the final day of training camp in the traditional sense. The Flyers had three separate groups on the ice – one consisting of four players likely to go to the Phantoms – and did not have a scrimmage following practice as they did on previous days.
They will be closing camp on Sunday with a pair of morning skates for the two groups participating in that evening’s intrasquad scrimmage at 7 p.m. Alain Vigneault had said on Friday that one of the groups in the scrimmage will likely resemble the opening night lineup.
But there was one absence that was notable for the Flyers. Shayne Gostisbehere was on the unable to participate list. Just days after he spoke about entering the season 100 percent healthy and with a clean slate, all that could be said was that he was not able to join his teammates on the ice.
Alongside other injured Flyers like Tanner Laczynski and Isaac Ratcliffe, Gostisbehere and Wade Allison were on the unfit to participate list. It is questionable if they will be able to participate in Sunday’s scrimmage.
As for the rest of the team, preparations continued for the start of the season in a matter of four days. The scrimmage will be treated like a game day and it gives the coaching staff a chance to really evaluate the players in game conditions.
“In the time we had, I thought getting what we consider is a real game is the right thing to do,” Vigneault said. “By having them skate here tomorrow, and that is what we are going to be doing throughout the season also if we do have morning skate, they are going to be here and not at Wells Fargo. This is because it is easier for testing facilities for us to get tested. So, we have to make a quick adjustment. Initially, I wanted everything at Wells Fargo, but because we have to get tested everyday here it is easier. That is why we changed tomorrow. But tomorrow night will be basically the two morning skates and then they will come in at night and play a game. We will have in theory one full game where guys are playing, guys are playing the right way.
“For us, obviously, we have been evaluating during practice. We have been evaluating during scrimmage. But tomorrow is a big night. It is an important night for a lot of players. Not just about starting lineup, but where they are on our depth chart, how we feel we can utilize these guys at some point moving forward.”
Prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, Vigneault adjusted his plans and made cuts earlier in camp than expected because he wanted veterans to get more time. Vigneault said Saturday that getting a veteran player at least three preseason games can be a help in getting him ready for the season.
Obviously, the Flyers aren’t alone in this. Every team in the league is void of preseason games and having to make the best of the situation with informal scrimmages. There are several teams using the intrasquad scrimmage as a way to simulate a game situation.
“I am kind of excited, even if it’s kind of like a scrimmage,” defenseman and newcomer to the team Erik Gustafsson said. “Just playing a real game, coming in in the morning, having a morning skate, going home and being ready for a game at night. It’s going to be huge for me and the whole team too before the real season is starting. It’s going to be fun. I think it’s going to be a whole other game out there from the regular scrimmage that we do here. I think it’s going to be fun. Like I said before, it’s going to be huge for me too. Get to the place a little bit more too and have the coaches on the bench that I can talk to me all the time. It’s going to be fun.”
“A couple definitely would be nice to have, but I guess this year is a little different circumstance,” Ivan Provorov said. “Hopefully tomorrow’s game is enough to get us prepared for the regular season. I think everybody has been in good shape, so hopefully one game is enough.”
“I think everyone is in the same boat, so that is something that obviously is good in that sense. I think the way that guys train and prepare now, I think guys are skating most of the summer, they are working on their skills a lot of the summer, they are in such great shape when they come in,” James van Riemsdyk said. “I think that curve that maybe you would see 10 years ago when I came into the league versus now, that curve is much smaller just because of those things. Obviously again, once you get playing in a competitive environment for games in the standings, as much as you work on things in the summer and practice, there still is a little bit of an adjustment for some of that stuff. Like I said before, everyone is in the same boat here and no one is trying to make any excuses. We are excited to have the opportunity to play and excited to get started here.”
It isn’t far away now. By Monday morning, the Flyers will have completed training camp. There will be two days from the start of the season. The final roster and taxi squad should be released sometime that day.
But first things first, there is one more day of business before camp is completed. It will be a true opportunity for everyone to experience a game day again.
For fans, the intrasquad scrimmage will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia, so this will be the first look for many at how the team looks.