Pucks bounce off his helmet. Elbows slam into his jaw. In the corners and in front of the net, it’s a war against 220-pound forwards: Hit or be hit.
Yet Ivan Provorov plays on. Night after night after night – 273 NHL games in all and nary a miss.
It’s the longest consecutive-game streak from the start of a career in Flyers history, by far.
And it’s also the longest active streak of that nature in the NHL.
If this ironman run continues, someday he might catch the great Rod Brind’Amour for the team overall record of 484 games in a row.
Right now Provorov stands 10th on the list.
Like Brind’Amour, Provorov doesn’t even think about taking a night off.
Two years ago in the playoff series against Pittsburgh, Provorov suffered a shoulder injury so serious it basically left his arm limp at his side.
Yet he played the next game, which was the Game 6 finale.
High pain threshold? Perhaps. But it goes beyond that. It might just come down to pride, knowing that he’s trying to do everything he can to help his team win.
Since he’s never missed a game in his NHL career, the young Russian defenseman was asked when the last time was he did miss a game.
Provorov paused before giving his answer.
“I think it was like when I was about 10 and had chicken pox,’’ he said.
Ever the team player, Provorov didn’t want to get his teammates sick, so discretion was, indeed in this case, the better part of valor.
In the ensuing 12 years, Provorov has played youth hockey with a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team, then a robust junior schedule in Canada with the Brandon Wheat Kings before three-plus seasons with the Flyers.
That’s a lot of hockey without a night off.
“It (the streak) means a lot, you go out there every game and to be able to have three straight seasons with 82 games – I don’t really do it because of the streak or anything like that – I’m just happy and grateful that I’m able to go every game,’’ he said.
“It’s about being able to help the team and that’s something I’m proud of.’’
By showing up every night, Provorov sets a good example, both for young players such as Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost and Travis Konecny and veterans alike.
“That’s what we need, guys who are willing to do everything and anything to help the team,’’ Provorov said. “We have a lot of guys and they’re trying to do the same thing here.
“I’m trying to be a good example for the younger guys. There are nights when you’re not going to feel good, something is going to hurt and you have to play through it. Honestly, in those games you get rewarded the most, I think, when you play through pain and you get an opportunity to score.
“It’s just part of hockey culture.’’
Even Provorov had to tip his hat to Florida defenseman Keith Yandle, who has the longest active streak at 820 games.
He lost nine – count ‘em, nine – teeth in a game the other night and came back to play in the third period, then played the next game to keep his streak alive.
“Hockey players are tough,’’ Provorov said with a smile. “Probably some of the toughest athletes in the whole world.
“With every opportunity, if they get hurt they still try to get out there and help the team. They play through pain and that’s another example of it.’’
Now about that Pittsburgh playoff game. . .
“As long as my arm was attached, I’m playing,’’ he said. “It’s playoffs, it’s Game 6. I didn’t even think about not playing.
“I couldn’t shoot, I couldn’t pass hard. But I was able to defend. I wasn’t going to miss that game.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault knows he can write in the name Provorov on his lineup card in ink, rather than pencil.
“In hockey, once camp starts, you’re never a hundred percent,’’ Vigneault noted. “There’s always something going on, you blocked a shot, you got a contusion somewhere.
“In Provy’s case, he’s got a high pain tolerance.’’
So high, in fact, it’s probably going to take something as crazy as chicken pox to put him back on the bench again.
>Flyers’ Top 10 consecutive-game streaks
- Rod Brind’Amour, 484.
- Wayne Simmonds, 416.
- Rick MacLeish, 330.
- John LeClair, 317.
- Claude Giroux, 291 (active).
- Jake Voracek, 286.
- Jeff Carter, 286.
- Ross Lonsberry, 284.
- Bobby Clarke, 276.
- Ivan Provorov, 273 (active).