PHILADELPHIA – It’s an unspoken mission but if you see the T-shirts the Flyers are wearing under their jerseys these days, not much has to be said.
The shirts say “#23 Oskar Strong’’ and the message is: Keep the faith for teammate Oskar Lindblom, who is battling a rare form of bone cancer (Ewing’s sarcoma). In simple terms, win for Oskar.
Lindblom stopped by to visit the team on Saturday afternoon, just after the Flyers’ 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets at the Wells Fargo Center.
It was the first time Lindblom had come by since Jan. 10. After the game, the players gave the young Swede the ritual silver helmet, which normally goes to the player of the game.
How good was it to see Lindblom again?
“It was great,’’ Tyler Pitlick said. “He looks great. We’re all very happy for him. Things are going good so we’re happy that it’s going that way.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault was moved by Lindblom’s presence.
“I just saw him after the game and he was smiling, a beautiful smile,’’ Vigneault said. “It makes everybody feel good. There’s no doubt that we’re all behind him.
“His teammates are obviously checking up on him on a regular basis and so is the whole staff.’’
This is Justin Braun’s first season with the Flyers but he fully appreciates what Lindblom means to the team.
“He was able to see the boys and it was just fantastic,’’ Braun said. “It was a surprise, I didn’t know he was coming today. It was awesome. It cheered the boys up to see him.’’
Added Carter Hart: “Yeah, it was great to see him. I’m sure he was happy to come to the rink and see the boys. He’s looking good. It’s just nice to see him with a smile on his face. . .he’s a big part of this team so it’s nice to have him in the locker room.’’
The Flyers hope that Lindblom makes a full recovery and possibly can resume his hockey career as early as next season if all goes well.
>Home is where the Hart is
Yes, Hart just keeps rolling along at the Wells Fargo Center.
With Saturday’s win over Winnipeg, Hart raised his record to 16-2-2 at home.
Hart won’t be able to break Wayne Stephenson’s record of 30-2-2 set in 1975-76 (there are only 11 home games left this season) but his ledger is already one for the books.
“I just prepare the same as every other game,’’ Hart said. “We love having the fans support us. When we’re not playing well, they definitely get on us and let us know about it, too.’’
>Flyers closing ground on division lead
Everything seems to be going right for the Flyers these days.
On Saturday, while the Flyers were beating Winnipeg, the Capitals were losing to the Devils in New Jersey and the Penguins lost to Buffalo, at Pittsburgh no less.
So that means the Flyers have closed to within three points of the Metropolitan Division lead. Pittsburgh has one game in hand and Washington has two.
Do the Flyers feel like they now belong to be mentioned in the same sentence with the Penguins and Capitals?
“We’re playing good hockey right now,’’ Pitlick said. “We have a lot of work to do. But if we keep going, who knows what will happen?’’