Flyers being careful with injuries, challenge their youngsters once more


VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers learned last season that the preseason finale can be a risky game to play.

Ryan Ellis suffered an injury that has morphed into a career-threatening one. Rasmus Ristolainen got banged up, as well, which cost him the first two games of the regular season.

The Flyers aren't taking any chances this preseason, especially with a number of players nursing injuries and a week-plus runway ahead of them before the Oct. 13 regular-season opener.

Carter Hart (lower body), Cam Atkinson (upper body), Ivan Provorov (unspecified), Travis Konecny (unspecified) and Ristolainen (unspecified) will all sit out the Flyers' sixth and final preseason game Tuesday against the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).

As a result, the Flyers will take an even longer look at their younger pieces and roster hopefuls.

More: 5 questions as Flyers shape roster, prepare for start of Tortorella era

"We want to put the effort in tonight, but the way it's gone here, I just want to make sure we get away from any more nicks," Flyers head coach John Tortorella said Tuesday morning. "We just don't need any more right now.

"The amount of days we have off, I welcome that right now. I wouldn't if we were healthy because they want to play. But right now, with the number of guys — not terrible injuries, but just banged up a little bit, we'll welcome it."

Hart and Atkinson did not play any games this preseason. Provorov and Konecny finished with one apiece, while Ristolainen played two. The Flyers are operating with an abundance of caution.

Hart has been practicing for a week now. He was hoping to play a preseason game but the club decided against it. The 24-year-old said last Friday that he'll be ready for the regular-season opener against the Devils.

"I thought he practiced well today," Tortorella said. "We'll just see how the week goes and then we'll go from there."

Atkinson had been practicing, as well. He rehab skated Tuesday, along with Ristolainen, and his status for the opener doesn't appear in doubt.

"We're just being careful with him, I know him well enough, he's done all the conditioning skates," Tortorella said. "More kind of a maintenance day, but also get on the ice, have him recover, do a lot of work with him behind the scenes. He'll be ready to go."

The Flyers are 1-4-0 in the preseason and have been outscored 12-5.

"We'll never even know what the scores of these exhibition games are in another month. They seem to be important now for evaluation, and they are, for some of the kids. Not for Cam," Tortorella said. "We're just trying to be smart with him, T.K., Provy, Risto. Just want to get them healthy come the 13th."

Provorov and Konecny continued to practice Tuesday. Potential backup goalie Felix Sandstrom (lower body) rehab skated. Head athletic trainer Tommy Alva looked on during the team's rehab skate.

One of the Flyers' looming roster decisions is backup goalie.

Sandstrom was the front-runner for the No. 2 job but then suffered his injury in the Flyers' 4-0 loss Saturday to the Bruins. Samuel Ersson and Troy Grosenick are also competing for the role.

"He feels better today, I haven't gone to the trainers as far as where everybody is yet this morning," Tortorella said about Sandstrom. "But I know he felt better yesterday, he feels better today. We're going to have to let them play out this week.

"I think we've seen them enough, the goalies. It's just who's healthy and make our decisions."

Owen Tippett, Cam York, Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, Jackson Cates, Tanner Laczynski and Hayden Hodgson will play their fifth exhibition game in 11 days.

The Flyers see it as a good barometer for roster evaluation.

"It's part of kind of putting them through a little glimpse of a National Hockey League schedule," Tortorella said.

"That's one of the big questions you have with the young kids, is putting the uniform on every day, back-to-backs every other day, travel. ... That's certainly one of the things we talked about with the kids, to put them through that. But also give them as long as a look as possible."

One of the final two preseason games is sometimes used as a dress rehearsal for a potential season-opening lineup. But Tortorella and general manager Chuck Fletcher decided to go with a blend of veterans and youngsters Tuesday night.

"I told Chuck, would I have liked to use these two games to kind of look at our lineup, what we thought it would be right now? Sure," Tortorella said. "But we can't, so it gives the kids even more of a look."

Laczynski is vying for the Flyers' fourth-line center job. He knows the club's roster candidates are being tested.

"I think that's definitely a factor, see how our bodies feel and see how well-conditioned we are," he said. "I think it's good, get a decent amount of preseason games in and get up to game speed."

Wade Allison is pushing for a spot at winger. He's set for his fourth exhibition game.

"I've got one more opportunity here tonight," he said, "so I'm looking to make the most of it."

What are the keys for rest and recovery when there's a day to recharge in Tortorella's camp?

"Come in, stretch, get treatment, roll out (foam roller) and then lay in bed," he said with a laugh. "It's a very basic plan."

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