When the Philadelphia Flyers returned to the ice, they had some familiar faces with them. Carter Hart, who missed a few games due to a mid-body injury and another from food poisoning, was present. Rasmus Ristolainen and Marc Staal were also on the ice in no-contact jerseys.
Hart is the only player whose return is imminent. The goaltender could be in net at early as Wednesday against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flyers did loan Cal Petersen back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, likely signaling Hart’s return.
Hart confirmed a few days ago that it was his lower back that had locked up. He could barely move for the first few days after leaving during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 1. The injury took place in a collision with Kyle Okposo.
"“I was on my stomach and when I tried to get up, Okposo falls on my lower back and I just kind of hyperextend my back forward a little bit and felt some sharp pain down my back, my low back,” Hart said. “Couldn’t bend over for a couple of days. It’s fine, feels good now.”"
Ristolainen has not appeared in a game this season and there hasn’t been much word on what his lower-body injury is. He was practicing before suffering a setback in mid-October that kept him off the ice. Tuesday was Ristolainen’s first practice back with the team.
There is still no word on when he might return to the lineup, but it could he sooner rather than later.
As for Staal, his return could come as early as this weekend. He suffered an upper body injury on a collision with Edmonton Oilers forward Warren Foegele during a game on Oct. 19. It turned out to be a rib injury for Staal as Foegele’s knee would go right into Staal’s ribs as he fell awkwardly into the boards.
Staal had been skating on his own the past few days, but this was his first skate back with the team. He will be on the trip to Carolina, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup. There’s a chance he could return this weekend either against the Vegas Golden Knights or Columbus Blue Jackets.
"“Just starting to get my feet wet a little bit out there. It always takes time with a new team, new systems,” Staal said. “When I get back in, I’m gonna try and play a little catch up again and just try to get back into the flow of the season. Gotta put the work in this week and get myself best prepared and build off where I left off.”"
The Flyers will have a decision to make once Staal returns. Louie Belpedio has impressed since earning the call-up. He scored his first two career goals and has play well in a limited role. He is likely to be the odd man out, but he’s certainly made it a tougher decision. Victor Mete, who had been recalled as well and appeared in one game, was loaned to the Phantoms with Petersen.
"”When there are decisions to be made, you know you’re getting deeper in your lineup,” John Tortorella said after practice on Tuesday. “I’m not going to lose sight of the kids. We’ll see where it all goes."