Home NHL NHL, players smart in return-to-play decisions | On the Fly – The Philadelphia Inquirer

NHL, players smart in return-to-play decisions | On the Fly – The Philadelphia Inquirer

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It’s full speed ahead for the NHL’s return-to-play plan, despite the proverbial icebergs littered about the voyage.

Let’s take a look at what we know and what we don’t know at the moment.

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— Ed Barkowitz (flyers@inquirer.com)

Many happy returns, hopefully

The return-to-play agreement still must be ratified by the full membership on both sides. but if nothing else, these last couple of months have shown an encouraging side that the league and the players’ union can get along. Baseball has been a disaster, but hockey has held it together.

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Even waiting to announce the hub cities was wise. When the original RTP plan was announced, it was thought that American locations were favored. But as much as the logistics in, say, Las Vegas might have been optimal, the recent surge in coronavirus cases was problematic.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Finishing the 2019-20 season is still tenuous, but restarting in a metropolitan hotspot would have been disconcerting. Good luck to the NBA down in Orlando.

Here are some points to know as the league enters the final two phases in what it hopes will end with Gary Bettman presenting a Stanley Cup in an empty arena sometime in October. At least he won’t get booed.

Phase 3/Training camp

  • Begins Monday. The Flyers will train at their practice facility in Voorhees, N.J. Sessions are closed to fans.
  • Up to 30 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies may participate. There are two sheets of ice at the facility, so keeping everyone busy won’t be a problem for the coaching staff.
  • Rosters for Phase 3 are due Thursday.
  • Players, coaches and staff must check their temperatures at home 2 hours before arriving to practice. They’ll be checked again once they arrive. Anything over 99.5 degrees will require immediate isolation and further evaluation.

Phase 4/Games

  • Teams may carry 31 players and a total of 52 people in the traveling party. Roster is due by Monday.
  • Team will travel to their respective hubs on Sunday, July 26 with games beginning on Aug. 1. The Flyers and the Eastern Conference are reportedly playing in Toronto. While the West is being sent to Edmonton.
  • The conference finals and Cup finals will be held at a single location, site TBA.

Projecting the Flyers’ roster

Here are the top candidates for 29 of the 31 spots for Phase 4. There could be injuries or illnesses during Phase 3, so some Phantoms players could be summoned. (Correction: a reference to goaltender Jean-Francois Berube being a potential roster candidate has been deleted. He was traded in February.)

This wouldn’t be an ideal place to bring back Nolan Patrick, who missed all of 2019-20 with a migraine disorder. Personally, I’d rather see the kid have a full training camp. Time would not be on his side if he had a setback.

Forwards (18): Andy Andreoff, Nic Aube-Kubel, Connor Bunnaman, Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Claude Giroux, Derek Grant, Kevin Hayes, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Tyler Pitlick. Michael Raffl, Nate Thompson, Carsen Twarynski, James van Riemsdyk, Jake Voracek.

Defensemen (8): Justin Braun, Mark Friedman, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Phil Myers, Matt Niskanen, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim.

Goaltenders (3): Brian Elliott, Carter Hart, Alex Lyon.

Things to know

Important (tentative) dates:

July 13: Start of NHL training camps.

Late July: At least one exhibition game per club

Aug. 1: Play resumes, Flyers in the East round-robin

Early October: Stanley Cup Finals

Mid-October: NHL Draft

Early November: Free agent market opens

Birthday book

July 8: Karl Dykhuis (turns 48).

July 10: Mark LaForest (58), Chico Resch (72), Ilkka Sinisalo (deceased in 2017; would have been 62).

July 11: Bill Barber (68), Todd Bergen (57).

July 12: Sam Morin (25).

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