VOORHEES – There was more suspense than a daytime TV soap opera, at least for those outside the Flyers’ locker room.
Was Jake Voracek going to make an appearance at Friday morning’s practice, a sure sign he was good to go for Saturday’s game at the New York Islanders?
All of the Flyers were on the ice and when Voracek finally stuck his head out of the doorway and strode to the bench, the players tapped their sticks in appreciation.
Because they were happy to see Jake?
“No,’’ said teammate and Czech countryman Radko Gudas with a grin, “because we wanted to get practice started.’’
Well, regardless of that reception, the Flyers are happy to get Voracek back, as well as first-line center Nolan Patrick.
It would seem like the biggest advantage to having Voracek back is the reunion of the second line, which features Sean Couturier and Oskar Lindblom.
That unit has been the hottest for much of the 16-4-2 run which has carried the Flyers back into playoff contention over the past two months.
“I’m good to go right now,’’ said Voracek, who hit the ice for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury (he took a shot in an awkward spot) in a 6-3 win at New Jersey last Friday. “It was just time I needed to get back to where I was before or at least to 80 percent. A couple days off helped.’’
In a way, the 30-year-old Voracek might be able to use the week off to recharge the batteries.
“When I came off the bye week (late January), I think I was re-energized again,’’ Voracek said. “When you’re going every other day and you’re not winning as much as you would like to, it can be tough on you.
“We went away (after the All-Star break), got some rest and I felt great since then. Hopefully it (this break) has the same (effect) as the bye week.’’
The Flyers need that second line clicking to have any real success.
Voracek had an ironman streak of 242 games stopped by this injury. He’s played through some tough injuries over the past few years, showing that he’s a true warrior.
Claude Giroux now takes over the team lead in that department at 231 games in a row.
Voracek had a long streak – 286 games to be exact, tied for third-longest in team history – stopped in late February of the 2015-16 season by a broken left foot.
“I feel like every time we talked about it, I get hurt,’’ Voracek said with a laugh. “Obviously it’s something you want to play in every game you can. And there are some bumps and bruises during the season that you can find a way to go through.
“Unfortunately there are times when you just can’t. This was a time I couldn’t go. It was disappointing because like when we talked three years ago, right before that injury, it’s something I take seriously and I want to take part in as many games as I can.’’
Gudas knows how much Voracek’s return means to the Flyers.
“He’s one of our best players, so it’s always good to see him back on the ice,’’ Gudas said. “He plays a key role, he’s been our best player throughout the whole year, him and ‘G’ (Giroux).
“Getting him back is huge for us. . .the power play gets a boost. It’s fun to watch him.’’
As for Patrick, he’s been given the green light from the concussion experts, so it’s back to work for him as well.
“Patty and Jake, those were two huge losses,’’ coach Scott Gordon said. “It’s great to get them both back.
“Your whole makeup of your lines (without them) is disrupted. There’s a trickle-down effect on every line when you take two guys off. We’re a better team with those two guys in the lineup. It just helps the players feel better about going into a game knowing that they’re there.’’
Patrick, who was hit in the head by Cal Clutterbuck’s shot in last Sunday’s game, sounded like he’s ready to go.
“I felt good,’’ Patrick said. “Just going to get back in there tomorrow. We were short-staffed last game (5-3 loss to Washington), so it’s nice to get everyone back in.’’
>Watching the scoreboard
If the Flyers win their next two games (including Ottawa on Monday) and get some help from other teams, they can draw to within three points of a playoff spot.
Gudas said the players will be keeping an eye on tonight’s Montreal-Anaheim game because of its importance in the standings.
“This time of the season, there’s only 15 games left,’’ he said. “Every game means pretty much everything. I think we have to focus on ourselves mainly. But we’re going to watch this (Montreal) game to see how it ends up.’’