Flyers finish road trip 1-2-1, Hart sounds off on NHL's COVID-19 process


The Flyers lost their captain and No. 1 defenseman the day of their game Tuesday night in Anaheim, California.

The club then lost to the Ducks, 4-1, at Honda Center, finishing its West Coast swing 1-2-1.

Because of COVID protocols, the Flyers (13-14-6) were without Claude Giroux, Ivan Provorov, Nick Seeler and Jackson Cates. They continued to be without Sean Couturier (upper body), Derick Brassard (hip), Ryan Ellis (lower body) and Nate Thompson (shoulder).

For the first three games of their four-game road trip, the Flyers missed Carter Hart and Scott Laughton. Both players, along with Brassard, entered COVID protocol on Dec. 27 when the club returned to practice from the NHL-mandated holiday break.

The Flyers were not the only ones shorthanded Tuesday night. The Ducks (18-11-7) didn't have Trevor Zegras, Ryan Getzlaf, Derek Grant or Nicolas Deslauriers, all of whom were out for COVID protocols.

• Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo said Giroux and Provorov were pulled following a team meeting Tuesday morning. On Monday ahead of practice at Honda Center, Seeler and Cates were placed in protocol.

During his pregame media availability around 7:40 p.m. ET, Yeo said all four players were currently asymptomatic.

Hart voiced his frustration postgame when asked about not having players the caliber of Giroux and Provorov.

"It's tough, for sure," the 23-year-old goalie said. "Guys are testing positive with no symptoms or mild symptoms. I mean, the league's got to find a way to change that. We're either going to keep playing shorthanded all season long or games are going to keep getting postponed. I think it's a joke. It's got to change."

On Monday, Hart said he had "pretty mild symptoms, if any at all," during his isolation. Laughton admitted frustration, as well, with his asymptomatic absence.

"I had no symptoms, was really surprised that I tested positive," Laughton said Monday. "You just try and follow the league protocols and go through it, but yeah, it's frustrating. It's a tough situation in the world right now and nothing you can do about it."

Kevin Hayes dealt with a similar experience just before the holiday break when he was removed at the start of a practice.

"My COVID battle wasn't too bad; I know it's a serious thing," Hayes said last Tuesday. "I had no symptoms at all, was shocked I tested positive but I did."

The Flyers are not the only team dealing with COVID-related hurdles. Postponements and absences have been league-wide.

For Provorov, Tuesday night marked the first game he had ever missed in his pro hockey career. He had an ironman streak of 403 consecutive games played since entering the NHL as a 19-year-old.

"Especially when you look at a guy like Provy and how hard he plays," Yeo said pregame. "He never is a guy that doesn't go back and take a hit to make a play, he's not a guy that's ever going to move out of the way of a shot, he blocks shots on the penalty kill. So that streak is incredibly impressive.

"We're very, very aware and we all share concern for what's going on in the world. But you can understand why maybe some players would find it difficult, when you have guys that play with broken ribs, broken feet. And they feel completely fine."

How deflating was it to have Giroux and Provorov yanked from the team's morning preparation?

"It's obviously difficult, those are quality players," Yeo said postgame. "Even yesterday, it happened right at the start of practice, so you have to adjust right away. That's just sort of the world we're living in right now. We can't make excuses.

"Very much tonight that game was still there for us. We could have put one past their goalie there at different points of the game when we had some of those opportunities. I think that game would have taken a turn for a different direction. Can't make any excuses. It's difficult, but that's what we have to deal with."

More: Flyers have a home game postponed but pick up a game that same night

• A little less than a week ago, following the new CDC isolation guidelines, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to adjust its COVID protocol. The league decided to trim its isolation period of 10 days to five days for a player who tests positive and is fully vaccinated.

If a player has no symptoms or his symptoms are resolving, they're permitted to return following five days as long as they have a negative lab-based RT-PCR test and the requirements adhere with local health laws.

Given Giroux and Provorov just entered COVID protocol Tuesday, it appears highly possible they'll have to miss Thursday's rivalry game against the Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center.

We'll see if anything changes on that front.

It's a big game. Pittsburgh is rolling with eight straight wins entering Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Flyers need to stem their own tide of three consecutive losses (0-2-1).

More: Who will Flyers have vs. Pens? Good question after 2 more hit COVID protocol

• With no Provorov or Seeler, defensive prospect Cam York made his season debut. He got a taste of the NHL last season.

But Tuesday night's game was special for York, who is a native of Anaheim Hills and was playing a day before his 21st birthday.

"Yeosy came up to me and kind of just tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'You're in tonight, kid,'" York said pregame. "Pretty crazy morning for myself."

His father Jeff and mother Teri were in attendance. York's mom was the first person to know he was entering the lineup.

"Her reaction was pretty priceless," York said.

"To be able to play here is going to be a little weird at first I think. My family's been cheering for the Ducks for so long, my entire life. To be cheering for the opposing team I think is going to be something different. At the end of the day, it's two big points for our team and we need to come out of this trip successful."

Despite the Flyers' loss, York played well. He impressed Yeo in his 20:20 minutes, recording three hits, two shots and two blocked shots.

• Hart played his first game since Dec. 16. He converted 26 saves on 29 shots.

Ducks forward Troy Terry capped a hat trick with an empty-net goal to seal Anaheim's win.

Cam Atkinson scored the Flyers' lone goal. It was assisted by Laughton and Joel Farabee.

Ducks goalie John Gibson stopped 28 of 29 shots for the victory.

• The Flyers return to Philadelphia for a three-game homestand starting with Thursday's matchup against the Penguins (7 p.m. ET/ESPN+, Hulu).

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