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Flyers call out Isaac Ratcliffe for his NHL debut on the fourth row

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The Flyers’ fourth line was already the team’s largest line, but it grew significantly as the Flyers called up Isaac Ratcliffe and groomed him for his NHL debut.

The Phantoms forward was called up on Wednesday and joined the team for practice on Thursday. He will debut as a right winger on the fourth line of the Flyers in Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings.

» READ MORE: Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher put on the clock by club boss Dave Scott

At 6-foot-6, Ratcliffe is the tallest player on the squad, beating defender Rasmus Ristolainen by two inches. He joins Zack MacEwen (6-foot-3) and Connor Bunnaman (6-foot-1) on the fourth row.

“That’s a big line,” said front row winger Cam Atkinson, who is the shortest player on the team at 5ft 8. “You have to play with energy and put it in the body, especially with these big guys. And hopefully make it into the top scorers list as well.”

Interim coach Mike Yeo said they called Ratcliffe to “order” the fourth line. Players from the front three lines have contributed goals, but a fourth line forward hasn’t scored since Jackson Cates scored in Montreal on December 16.

Cates was an option, as was Maksim Sushko, but Yeo said Phantoms coach Ian Laperrière said Ratcliffe deserved the chance.

“He put the work in,” Yeo said. “I had a really good weekend last weekend. I’m so excited to see what he can do.”

The fourth line was a work in progress for most of the season because the Flyers had so many injured forwards. Since the team’s current 13-game losing streak began, the fourth row has only featured the same three players in consecutive games twice. Ratcliffe is the 10th player to skate on the fourth line during that period.

At this point, Yeo said that part of the constant rotation of players between the Phantoms and the Flyers is just to give players an NHL-level shot. Linus Sandin, who made his debut in the Flyers’ last game, showed Yeo some good things, but he believes he needs more time in the AHL to regain his footing from his injury.

Last game, the New York Islanders’ experienced and physical fourth line made it a very tough matchup for players fresh from the AHL. Ratcliffe will have two practice sessions to prepare for the Kings’ fourth line, which Atkinson says should help calm his nerves.

“So it’s a tough duel, but this is an incredible opportunity,” Yeo said. “It’s not too often that young players get the opportunity to come into the line-up like that, get a chance to play and for a guy like Ratcliffe, [he] should be excited about this opportunity.”

The three-day break between games, which included a day off and two practice sessions, gives the Flyers a good opportunity to reset amid their losing streak.

“I think in practice, whenever you have an opportunity to work on systems or whatever it is that we’re struggling with overall, I think it’s important that we get back to basics and onto the ice going and watching videos and getting better at things,” Atkinson said. “It’s very important and beneficial for us.”

The team is in an even bigger reset process dating back to December 6 when coach Alain Vigneault was fired. With each series of practice days, the Flyers have returned to the most basic elements of the game. They have re-learned “how to work”.

The team began deviating from what Yeo describes as “good habits” last season when going through “tough times”.

“Things didn’t go well for us in the last half of last season and I think we carried a lot of those things into this season,” Yeo said. “And that’s one of the things that we’re really trying to do right now to recreate what it takes to win hockey games.”

» READ MORE: Chuck Fletcher says it’s time the Flyers ‘aggressively retool’ the roster.

In recent games, Yeo said he’s seen progress. The team shows more tenacity and doesn’t give up after falling behind. Even though they lost a goal to the Islanders in the third period on Tuesday, they kept up, Yeo said.

As one of the veterans in the room, however, Atkinson feels there is still a long way to go, but every person in the room bought into it. They all understand the hard work required to reverse this and there is no one tempted to cheat. But they all need to “dig a little deeper.”

“We still have a little bit [a] Ways to go — I think everyone can bring a little bit more tenacity and a little bit more F-you into our game,” Atkinson said. “So I’m thinking top down, I think we need to bring a little bit more jam.”

The Flyers practice in Voorhees, NJ on Friday before hosting the Los Angeles Kings at 1 p.m. Saturday… Sean Couturier, Kevin Hayes, Derick Brassard and Tyson Foerster went ice skating ahead of Flyers practice. … The day after Comcast Spectacor CEO Dave Scott and Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher discussed the state of the organization, Yeo said he was personally focused on day-to-day operations. He said it was a grind but he enjoyed it. … Yeo said he will announce the responsibilities of his new assistant coach, John Torchetti, after Torchetti exits COVID-19 protocols.

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