VOORHEES, N.J. — Keith Yandle‘s NHL-record consecutive games played streak ended at 989 when the Philadelphia Flyers defenseman was a healthy scratch for a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
Yandle last missed a regular-season game March 22, 2009, as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.
“I don’t really know if it’s hit me completely,” Yandle said before the game. “I don’t know yet, I don’t know when it will. It’s kind of one of those things during it, I didn’t really try to think about it too much, just kind of go out and play. Maybe now the next day or two it might hit me.
“Obviously something I take a lot of pride in. I’m fortunate to play one game in this league. I say it all the time, I’ve been blessed to be in this league as long as I have. I owe pretty much my whole life to this league. It’s been a great journey too. You look back and you think about your first game, and then it’s one of those things that the last couple days have been a lot of reflecting and I’m not really a guy who reflects too much.”
Flyers coach Mike Yeo said it wasn’t easy telling Yandle that he would not be in the lineup against the Maple Leafs.
“He received it exactly like you’d expect Keith Yandle to handle it,” Yeo said. “He is nothing but a phenomenal pro. He handled it extremely well. Obviously disappointed, which you would expect from a competitor and hockey player that’s been doing it for as long as he has.
“My only hope is that he just recognizes how amazing it is what he’s done. For sure, for him it’s disappointing no question. But not many can say they’ve done something that nobody in the history of the NHL has ever done. And so in no way does this diminish what he’s accomplished. It is remarkable and certainly something to be extremely proud of.”
With the Flyers eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, Yeo said there was a need to see what they have in some of their younger players. Defenseman Ronnie Attard is made his NHL debut in Yandle’s place and was minus-4 with two hits in 15:33 of ice time.
“What went into the decision, we’re at the point in the season where as an organization, it’s important that we get some young players in,” Yeo said. “Not to say that we’re not playing hard with what’s going on right now, but obviously we have to have an eye on the future and what’s coming down the road, to give some new guys an opportunity.”
Yandle passed Doug Jarvis to become the NHL ironman when he played his 965th consecutive game Jan. 25.
“My mindset is to get better in practice, work on things and try to get back in the lineup and help the team win games,” Yandle said. “I know it’s the end of the year and we’re out of it [the playoff race], but building something for these guys next year where you can go into summer feeling good about yourself and feeling good about the team, trying to set yourself up. I think that’ll be my goal.”
Yandle has scored 15 points (one goal, 14 assists) and averaged 14:20 of ice time in 67 games this season. His minus-39 rating is the worst in the NHL.Yandle had played 57 consecutive postseason games but was a healthy scratch for the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup First Round last season. He also was scratched for Games 4 and 6 in the loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“You understand that, that it’s going to be talked about,” Yeo said. “Scratching a player is always difficult because, No. 1, you care about your players and you see what they go through to … they want to play, they’re competitors. Obviously ‘Yands,’ it’s very difficult to scratch him. … Obviously Yands being the great teammate that he is and certainly given the streak that he’s … it’s just amazing how he was able to do that. It’s truly an amazing accomplishment. So yeah, it was very difficult, no question.”
Yandle’s streak began March 26, 2009, with the Coyotes. The 35-year-old has also played for the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers.
“Obviously when you make a decision like this, it’s an organizational decision,” Yeo said. “This is what we feel is in the best interest of the Philadelphia Flyers going forward. This is for tonight. This doesn’t mean that ‘Yands,’ maybe he plays tomorrow [at the Rangers], maybe he plays the game after that, I’m not sure. This is the decision we made for tonight, and that decision is made in the best interest of what’s right for the Philadelphia Flyers going forward here.”
Yandle said he understands the decision to give younger players a chance to get into the lineup.
“It’s just one of those things you know is going to happen toward the end of the year when you’re signing young guys and getting free agents out of college, they’re going to give them a chance to play,” Yandle said. “You’ve got to respect that out of the business side of it and what they’re trying to do here. For me, it’s continue to come to the rink and help the young guys out, be a good teammate and be here for guys.”
Yandle said his teammates have supported him throughout the season and the streak.
“They felt bad for me,” he said. “They wanted me to play it, they wanted me to keep it going. But it’s like I told guys, it’s part of the business. You’ve got to understand what the team’s doing here. But having the guys in there and their support, the words that they’ve said to me, it’s been really, really special.”
Arizona Coyotes forward Phil Kessel has the longest games-played streak in the NHL at 968. He passed Jarvis when he played his 965th straight game March 25.