For the first five days of Flyers Phase 3 training camp, everything was relatively normal. The players ran through the usual drills and the intensity started to ramp up as the team prepared for the next phase and the return to game play.

But Saturday brought on something new. While the players were all going to finally get some real competitive juices flowing with a scrimmage, there was finally an absence, and for the first time, the Flyers had to operate using the NHL’s protocol for players not on the ice for sessions.

Moments before the team took the ice for the scrimmage on Saturday, GM Chuck Fletcher announced that Jake Voracek was “unable to participate” and would not be on the ice. According to the NHL’s protocol, that is the only update teams are able to give on absent players. So there is no knowledge if Voracek’s absence is injury-related, illness-related or simply a maintenance issue.

Flyers forward Scott Laughton seemed to downplay the absence of Voracek, noting that while he’s a key player, there’s time before the Flyers need to make the trip to the hub city of Toronto.

“No concern. We’ve got lots of time ‘til Toronto,” Laughton said. “We’ve got a week coming up. We’ll be all good to go.”

As for the scrimmage, Team Black, led by Brian Elliott and Kevin Hayes, defeated Team Orange, led by Carter Hart and Claude Giroux, 3-2. Connor Bunnaman, Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere scored for Team Black in the win while Justin Braun and James van Riemsdyk had goals for Team Orange.

Overall, it was a chance for Alain Vigneault to see players in more of a game-like setting and really get a feel for the energy that the team has. Watching from above instead of being on the ice, Vigneault liked what he saw so far.

“I definitely like our intensity. The execution and decision making is going to get better,” Vigneault said. “This is the first real scrimmage that these guys have had in a long time. Three lines on both sides, except for one team because Jake wasn’t there, and six D. There were some real good plays made. There were some decisions that will improve, but overall I liked the intensity of our group. I liked the pace that was out on the ice and I believe day by day we’re going to get better.”

For now, the Flyers have some time to still get better. On Sunday, the team returns to the combined groups that were used as part of Friday’s practice. After an off day on Monday, the team will run another scrimmage on Tuesday, a group practice on Wednesday, a scrimmage on Thursday, a day off the ice on Friday and a final group practice on Saturday. On Sunday, the team departs for Toronto to begin the stay in the hub city.

After running essentially the same groups and lines in the first week of practice, Vigneault did say that changes are going to come over the next week, starting with Sunday’s sessions. The Flyers are interested in looking at all combinations leading up to Round Robin play with a focus on getting ready for the first round, set to begin on Aug. 11.

“I’m telling you and I’m telling everybody else at the same time, I am making little subtle changes for tomorrow,” Vigneault said. “There will be some changes throughout the week to the lines and some d pairs. I just want to get a look on a couple of other possible line combinations. When we get to Toronto, we’ll be down to more of the 30 players we’re allowed to bring. We’ll have those four games to set up that first official playoff round game. I’m definitely going to take this next week, which we have two scrimmages and three full practices laid out that I’m going to take some of that time to take a look at different combinations.”

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