The Flyers were likely looking to get Joel Farabee into the lineup at some point during the round robin of the NHL’s return-to-play 24-team tournament.
An awkward play during the third period Sunday night has made Alain Vigneault’s decisions a bit easier, but not in a good way.
Michael Raffl will miss time after suffering an undisclosed injury when he went into the boards while racing Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon to the puck.
Before the team’s practice Monday at the Ford Performance Centre, Vigneault provided as much information as he’s permitted to on Raffl’s status. Because of a mutual agreement between the NHL and NHLPA to respect an individual player’s right to medical privacy during this time, teams are not allowed to release specifications for any injuries/illnesses in the tournament.
Without putting pressure on his one leg, Raffl was forced to exit the Flyers’ 4-1 round-robin win over Boston with 6:17 left in the game and did not return.
“I can’t get into specifics, I can’t get into lengths because of the NHL protocol,” Vigneault said, “but I can say that he’s not going to be available for a little bit here.”
The good thing is the Flyers are not in the midst of a playoff series just yet. They do have some time on their side with two more games in the round robin as they play the Capitals Thursday (start time TBD) and Lightning Saturday (start time TBD). Given the Flyers were already expecting to utilize some different players during this portion of the tournament in preparation and evaluation for the first round, one could safely assume now that Raffl won’t play at least in these next two games. The first round of the playoffs is slated to begin Aug. 11 and Raffl’s status is obviously up in the air.
The 31-year-old’s absence right now is a blow to an area of strength for the Flyers. The club’s depth at forward has been a huge factor in the Flyers’ 2019-20 turnaround. During the regular season, Raffl played winger and center, won a career-high 99 faceoffs, helped kill penalties and scored 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) over 58 contests. Playing fourth-line winger against the Bruins, Raffl had a big game with a goal, an assist and a plus-2 rating.
“He’s a great guy to be around,” Sean Couturier said in a video interview Monday. “He’s loved in the dressing room. We’re going to miss him if it’s for an extended period of time. There are some other guys just waiting to get an opportunity. We have some depth, which is a good thing – we can use that.”
The situation now calls for Farabee, the 20-year-old playmaking rookie who was pushing for a spot in the Flyers’ first-round Game 1 lineup. Farabee will play Thursday and it would be surprising to not see him in the lineup at the start of the first round if Raffl is still unavailable. Maybe the Flyers look at Andy Andreoff or Connor Bunnaman, who have had solid stints on the fourth line.
Where Farabee slots in the lineup (not if he does) feels like the real question, though. The 2018 first-round pick has top-six upside but the Flyers’ first two lines have been good with noticeable chemistry. Farabee could jump right onto the fourth unit, though the Flyers might like his contributions more in greater minutes with a different player giving a lift to the bottom line (see story).
“He’s had a good year,” Couturier said. “It’s tough your rookie year, you have some ups and some downs. I think the important thing is to grow from it, learn from it. He came back prepared and he’s looked good, so we’re excited to have him in the lineup. I think we’re counting on him to make a difference down the road.”
The Flyers are off the ice Tuesday, so we should know more about the Flyers’ decisions come Wednesday.
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