The Phantoms on Wednesday held their last practice at the Civic Center until next Thursday as they embark on one of their longer road trips -- in miles -- of the season this weekend.
Following practice, the Phantoms left for Voorhees, N.J., where they will practice Thursday morning at 11 at the SkateZone. From there, they'll leave for Norfolk, where they play Friday and Saturday. Then it's an all-night (and some of the next day) bus ride to Toronto for Tuesday's game with the Marlies. I get tired just looking at that schedule.
Wednesday's practice included at least one major piece of news: newly acquired forward Matt Ford isn't with the team and may not play this weekend. Ford has been given some time off to deal with a family situation. He may re-join the team during the trip.
In Ford's absence, Shane Harper skated on the top wing of the right line. He gets the nod rather than Mike Testwuide or Jason Akeson because it allows the rest of the lines to remain intact. Harper had been on the fourth line.
That paves the way for forward Garrett Klotz to return to the lineup. Klotz has been out since Dec. 18. Klotz has been limited to 19 games this seasn due to injury. The Phantoms initially weren't sure whether Klotz would play back-to-back games when he first returned, but it looks like that will be the case if Ford misses time.
Defenseman Matt Walker will make the trip with the team this weekend, but I don't expect he'll play. Walker's injury has gotten better, but he hasn't skated in at least six days. I'd bet his best chance to get back in the lineup is Tuesday in Toronto.
The news isn't as good for forward Andrew Rowe. He is definitely out this weekend with an upper-body injury suffered in Friday's game. Rowe will be evaluated by the Flyers' staff on Thursday to determine the severity of his injury. You may remember Rowe missed the first two months of the season with a shoulder injury.
Hamel/Holmstrom/Harper; McGinn/Roe/Akeson; Wellwood/Kalinski/Testwuide; Klotz/Brown/Pither.