ALLENTOWN — Brandon Manning is still rounding into shape after back surgery in late April, but the Flyers defenseman hopes he is 100 percent healthy when the season opens Oct. 4 in San Jose.
“It’s taken longer than I thought,” Manning said before being paired with Travis Sanheim in the Flyers’ split-squad exhibition game Wednesday against the Islanders in Allentown. “It was probably one of the toughest summers I’ve ever had. Not [only] physically but mentally because every time I tried to get into it, something flared up and I wouldn’t feel right. From that aspect, it was really tough. I’m still dealing with it on a day-to-day basis.”
Manning, a physical defenseman who had a well-publicized feud with Connor McDavid last season and became the Edmonton superstar’s most-despised opponent, didn’t resume skating until mid-August. He said he was starting to see improvement.
“It’s coming and it’ll be a process,” he said. “It’s something I have to keep an eye on and take care of. Work on getting back in shape and touching the puck. I’m starting to feel pretty good and I’m excited to get into a game and get bumped and start to feel myself again.”
Manning, 27, had offseason surgery to repair a disk that had bothered him for a few years. He played in a career-high 65 games last season and had 12 points and a minus-12 rating.
The Flyers could have two rookies start the season on defense — Robert Hagg and Sam Morin are the leading candidates — and Manning, if healthy, could find himself as the seventh defenseman if those prospects are ready.
Giroux on hold
Four of the Flyers’ top forwards — Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Sean Couturier — will not play in either of their split-squad exhibition games Wednesday against the Islanders.
Instead, the Flyers looked at a lot of youngsters.
Defensively, Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald, and Ivan Provorov will be among the players who will sit.
“There’s a thought process to it. We have another game [Thursday], so it’s back to back,” coach Dave Hakstol said after Wednesday’s morning skate in Voorhees. Wednesday night will give him a “good opportunity to see some combinations, to see some individuals.”
On Thursday, the Flyers will play in Boston, and more veterans figure to be in the lineup.
Hakstol was asked if he wanted to see Giroux play left wing when he gets into an exhibition game. The center played left wing on line with center Couturier and right winger Voracek at Tuesday’s practice.
“There’s a chance we’ll do that. I wouldn’t commit to that right now,” he said. “…Whether it’s the line we had together yesterday or something similar to that, there’s a chance we’ll take a look at it over the next couple of exhibition games.”
Simmonds was back on the ice skating after missing two practices because of an illness.