(Photo: Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)
The Flyers are officially back as the start of training camp took place on Monday with the first on-ice session of the new year. It didn’t take long to notice the two players whose presence stood out the most.
Nolan Patrick was back on the ice as a regular member of the rotation, as was Oskar Lindblom.
Patrick’s return is significant after missing the entire 2019-20 season with migraine disorder. While the update was not provided prior to the on-ice session, head coach Alain Vigneault said the words that many had longed to hear on Patrick’s status.
“He’s gone through the whole protocol medically. From that aspect, his test and his physicals, he’s fine. When we talked yesterday, he wanted to get a couple full team practices and team scrimmages in. Then in theory, he should be cleared and fine to go. He just wanted to get a couple of those in. He’s cleared for contact,” Vigneault said. “He wants to get a couple good team practices. That’s what he got today, a good hard 40 minute practice and then we scrimmaged for 30 minutes. He was part of our shootout crew right now. Right after practice, we went to the other side and worked on shootouts with a couple of our guys. He was in that group, so that’s a positive sign.”
Patrick is taking everything in stride for now. It was his first day back on the ice for a formal practice in a long time and his quest to return to a game for the first time in over 650 days is one he doesn’t want to rush into.
“It’s obviously been a while since I’ve participated in everything with the team. I’ve been scrimmaging the last couple of weeks since I’ve been here, so pretty used to that. It was a good day out there today,” Patrick said. “I’m not going to get into too much detail of how my head feels. I’m going to see how camp goes and go from there.”
Despite that, Patrick looked solid in his first day back, making a lot of cuts, handling the puck well and firing away at the net. During the scrimmage, he was robbed at the front of the net by Brian Elliott.
Lindblom already made his triumphant return to the NHL following treatments for Ewing’s sarcoma over the summer, playing in Games 6 and 7 of the Flyers second-round series against the Islanders. While it was exciting just to return to those games, Lindblom has been more focused this offseason on getting the time he needed to return in the best shape possible.
He’s gained back most of the weight lost from his vigorous treatments and has set his goals on being out there on the first night of the regular season.
“I’m feeling really good. It’s hard to say exactly how I feel compared to last season how I played. I had a good offseason at home. Worked out and skated a lot. I’m just trying to be as good as I can here at the start of camp,” Lindblom said. “My goal is to start playing the first game, but it’s the coach that decides if I’m playing or not. We’ll see, but I’m doing my best out there.”
In the eyes of Vigneault, Lindblom looks like the player he was before the diagnosis, a good sign for his potential return right as the season begins.
“Other than the long flow, he’s looked great. He’s been here for quite some time. He’s been skating a lot. He seems to be in real good condition,” Vigneault said. “I’ve had a couple of talks with him about where he is and how he feels. As far as I could tell, obviously today was the first time I was on the ice with the guys as far as practices. He looked real good, real strong, and powerful. I think he’s cleared, good to go and really anxious for a full season with his teammates.”
Line combinations and defensive pairings mean very little on Day 1 of training camp. There is a lot of room for adjustment and the main focus is to get players moving and energized to be back more than it is to pinpoint the perfect linemates. That said, the combinations looked like this on Day 1:
Claude Giroux-Kevin Hayes-Wade Allison
Oskar Lindblom-Morgan Frost-Jake Voracek
Carsen Twarynski-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Connor Bunnaman-Joel Farabee
Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun
Robert Hagg-Erik Gustafsson
Travis Sanheim-Mark Friedman
Shayne Gostisbehere-Phil Myers
Goalies in Group A were Carter Hart and Brian Elliott.
James van Riemsdyk-Sean Couturier-Tyson Foerster
Sam Morin-Scott Laughton-Linus Sandin
Max Willman-Andy Andreoff-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Egor Zamula-Derrick Pouliot
Tyler Wotherspoon-Nate Prosser
Chris Bigras-Wyatte Wylie
Goalies in Group B were Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom and Roddy Ross.
Tanner Laczynski and Zayde Wisdom skated prior to practice, but did not participate in the group sessions. Laczynski is still recovering from offseason core-muscle surgery. Wisdom was out for an undisclosed reason.
In the scrimmage that followed practice, Team Orange defeated Team Black, 2-1. Team Black opened the scoring with a goal off a two-on-one by Max Willman – a newly-added member of the camp roster who played for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season – but Team Orange responded with a pair of goals, one from Claude Giroux and another from Travis Konecny. The scrimmage lasted for 30 minutes, then was followed by a shootout drill.
Overall, it was a good first day on the ice for the Flyers, who picked right back up with the intense pace that we saw in Vigneault’s practices from a season ago. That can only help the Flyers get back into the right shape and frame of mind for the games set to begin in just nine more days.
“This morning prior to practice, we had a good video session on the theme for the day. Today, we were really focused on defensive zone coverage and our responsibilities,” Vigneault said. “Last year we took a step forward as far as improving our defensive play. I think we were the team in the league that gave up the least amount of shots. We want to have that strong foundation. Checking quickly so that we can get the puck and go play in the other end. We started with our zone today.
“We’re going to go through each zone before the start of the regular season. Video before we pre-iced. I thought the pace of practice was excellent. The execution is going to get better. The pace and the attention to detail was good and what’s what we were looking for.”
The Flyers continue training camp on Tuesday with another practice starting at 11 a.m. and followed by a scrimmage. The team will follow the same schedule on Wednesday and Friday of this week. Saturday will feature staggered start times for the groups with Group A getting on the ice at 11 a.m. and Group B hitting the ice at 11:30 a.m. There will be no scrimmage on Saturday.
Sunday will be the final day of training camp with the team simulating a game day experience. One group will skate at 10:30 a.m. at Wells Fargo Center and the other group will follow at 11:30 a.m. The two teams will then face-off in an intrasquad scrimmage at 7 p.m. that night.