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Carter Hart on NHL’s COVID-19 protocols: “It’s a joke, it’s got to change”

The Philadelphia Flyers closed out their road trip with a 1-2-1 record following Tuesday’s 4-1 defeat to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and although the team didn’t play well in the loss, the team was not happy with the constant changes to their roster.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, the Flyers were without captain Claude Giroux, leading defenseman Ivan Provorov, as well as depth players Nick Seeler and Jackson Cates. Giroux and Provorov were pulled from Tuesday’s morning skate and did not dress in the eventual multi-goal loss, continuing what has been a frustrating period for the players and interim head coach Mike Yeo.

Carter Hart, who was unavailable himself for three of the four games this road trip, voiced his frustration with the league’s protocols, which has forced several members of the team to miss games, even if they showed zero symptoms of the virus.

“It’s tough, for sure,” Hart said postgame. “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.”

“I had no symptoms, was really surprised that I tested positive,” Flyers forward Scott Laughton said Monday in a separate interview. “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.”

The Flyers aren’t the only team in the league dealing with roster issues due to the virus, but luck hasn’t been on their side either. Sean Couturier (upper body), Derick Brassard (hip), Ryan Ellis (lower body) and Nate Thompson (shoulder) are also out of action due to respective injuries, making it incredibly tough for the team to gain any consistency during the start of the new year.

Giroux and Provorov’s absences remain the most important for the team, especially Provorov’s on the back end. Provorov’s iron-man streak of 403 consecutive games played came to an end on Tuesday night, and now also could see him miss Thursday’s home showdown with rivals Pittsburgh at the Wells Fargo Center. It will mark another tough test for the Orange and Black, who remain outside the top four spots in the Metropolitan Division.

“Especially when you look at a guy like Provy and how hard he plays,” Yeo said. “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. It’s obviously difficult, those are quality players. 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.”

Troy Terry stole for the show for the Ducks on Tuesday, registering his first-career NHL hat trick in the 4-1 victory. The Flyers dropped to 13-14-6 on the season and now find themselves in a must-win situation returning to Broad Street over the next week. Pittsburgh, San Jose, and Carolina visit Philadelphia over the next six days, all three providing different tests for the Flyers to overcome.

Although their options are limited, the team will need to buckle down and right the ship or else players many permanently see themselves gone from the team in the coming weeks.

You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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