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Keith Yandle’s ironman streak could end at 989 games this weekend

Keith Yandle is the NHL’s ironman, but his streak could be in jeopardy this weekend.

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

No, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke. Keith Yandle may miss his first game since 2009 this weekend.

The Philadelphia Flyers defenseman missed practice on Thursday due to an illness and will be a game-time decision for Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Yandle played in his 965th consecutive game on January 25th to break Doug Jarvis’ NHL ironman streak. He has now played in 989 consecutive games and would pass the 1,000 mark if he played in every game the rest of the season. However, that may not happen.

“We haven’t made a decision on lineup yet for tomorrow,” Mike Yeo said after practice on Friday. Obviously, Keith was sick yesterday, he missed practice. So wanted to get him out there. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him to see how he did in practice today.”

Yandle is one of a “couple of guys” that are dealing with nagging things, Yeo continued.

“We do have a couple of guys that are banged up and a couple of guys that are battling a little bit of sickness right now, so we’ll make a determination on lineup tomorrow.”

Yeo didn’t want to get into the “speculation” of Yandle not playing until that decision needs to be made. The interim coach stressed the importance of communication with any player in regards to lineup decisions.

After playing in the Flyers’ first 67 games this season –– only Cam Atkinson and James van Riemsdyk have also played in all 67 games this year ––, it would be a shame to see Yandle’s streak come to an end. He hasn’t lived up to expectations this season, but neither have the Flyers. Would he have been benched if he didn’t have the streak? Probably. But there’s something about Yandle’s demeanor and off-ice presence that makes him stick around.

Nevertheless, if Yandle’s streak does come to an end, it should only be if he physically cannot play. The Flyers already had one on-ice pooping incident this season, so Yandle should be sicker than that to be kept out of the lineup.

However, Elliotte Friedman tweeted that it “sounds like there have been conversations between Yandle and Flyers about how to handle final 15 games of the season.”

Yandle was “blocking” Cam York for a bit earlier this season, but the young defenseman is now finding his footing at the NHL level on the top pair with Ivan Provorov. Yandle has been worse than the Flyers’ other depth defensemen (Nick Seeler, Kevin Connauton), but 15 games may not make that much of a difference for them getting a contract next season.

One defenseman that should get some playing time is the newest Flyer Ronnie Attard. Attard is slated to make his NHL debut on Saturday on the third pair. He practiced on the third pair with Nick Seeler on Friday, with Yandle skating on the fourth pair.

One could make the argument that Egor Zamula should see more time with the Flyers in a lost season, but the young defenseman appears to need more seasoning at the AHL level.

On one hand, Yandle does not deserve to be in the lineup due to his declining play. He’s been on the ice for seven shorthanded goals against –– only Jesper Bratt has had more SHG scored against him this season. Among 158 defensemen that have played at least 750 minutes on 5-on-5 this season, only David Savard (3.17) has a worse xGA/60 than Yandle (3.11).

Getting to the 1,000-game mark would be a cool honor for Yandle. While he own the ironman streak now, Phil Kessel is right on his tail at 967 games –– and has a much better chance of continuing that next season.

On the other hand, Yandle has the ironman streak to play for and the Flyers have ... nothing to play for. In fact, keeping a worse defenseman in the lineup will only help the Flyers in the draft lottery.

We’ll see what happens with Yandle this weekend. The Flyers host the Maple Leafs on Saturday night at 7 p.m. before traveling to Madison Square Garden to face off against the Rangers at 7 p.m.