By Mary Cunningham
If the Flyers are going to be successful in their playoff push from six points out of the last wild card spot in the East, they are going to have to do it without defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who will be out long-term.
“It’s been an ongoing thing,” general manager Ron Hextall said.
Del Zotto left Saturday’s game at the 12:30 mark of the third period in a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. He took Devils forward Kyle Palmieri with him into goalie Michal Neuvirth and never returned to the game.
For the last several weeks Del Zotto has had his left wrist taped up. It appears as though on the play his left arm either went into the top of Neuvirth’s helmet or the post at a high speed.
The question becomes whether long-term means months or weeks.
“I don’t know yet,” Hextall said. “Probably weeks for sure.”
There’s only eight of them left.
The injury comes on the heels of another situation where the Flyers lose ground in the standings and they are already without No. 2 center Sean Couturier. With the trade deadline a couple weeks away and the Flyers five points out of the last playoff spot, there’s no reason to believe Hextall will be a “buyer” on Feb. 29.
Del Zotto, 25, has four goals and nine assists in 51 games for the Flyers. The Flyers have turned him into a well-rounded defensemen after years of mostly being an offensive threat from the back end.
“He’s taken on a real two-way role for us,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s been a good penalty killer. He gets a good chunk of every PK. With that development, we get back at it right away (Sunday). We’ll take a couple hours and evaluate things and decide how we put the pairs together as we go into (Sunday’s) game.”
It would appear likely the Flyers will recall Andrew MacDonald, who has a nine-game point streak in the American Hockey League with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
“If he’s coming and if he’s in, he’s a good veteran player,” Hakstol said.