If ever the Flyers needed some inspiration, it was for Sunday night’s Game 4 of their playoff series with the Islanders.
And when a familiar face wearing a No. 23 uniform skated onto the ice for warm-ups with the team at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, they got exactly that.
When Oskar Lindblom — who had not worn a Flyers game uniform since back in December after he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma (a rare form of bone cancer) — joined his teammates for the 15-minute session, there were smiles all around.
Although the Flyers went on to lose Game 4 by a 3-2 score, the outcome did nothing to detract from the uplifted feelings brought about by Lindblom’s presence.
Naturally, Lindblom’s presence on the ice raised speculation about when he might be ready to play in a game. Since the Flyers could be eliminated in Game 5 on Tuesday night, that might shorten the timeline a bit.
Anyway, just to see him out there on the ice was encouraging.
Coach Alain Vigneault can’t comment on a player’s availability due to the NHL protocols regarding the COVID pandemic but he didn’t come right out and say the Swede isn’t ready to play.
“He’s working extremely hard right now to get back to game shape, game conditioning after what he went through,’’ Vigneault said. “Obviously we can’t talk about who’s in and who’s out but I think everybody was happy to have him around the team on the ice tonight.’’
Lindblom watched the game from the stands and added a little levity to the whole experience by wearing a “Gritty’’ facemask which was caught by NBC television cameras during the game.
“He’s getting closer to coming back,’’ said Sean Couturier, mindful that Lindblom was leading the Flyers in goals with 11 when the diagnosis was made. “It’s nice to have him around us. Such a great guy and what he’s been through, he’s done a heck of a job keeping positive and keeping a good attitude. And having that around just kind of reflects on us. We’re excited to have him around.’’
Captain Claude Giroux skated over and chatted with Lindblom for a moment during the pre-game session.
“It was fun to have him in the warm-up,’’ Giroux said. “He looks great in practice. He’s a fun guy to be around. It’s fun to see him out there.’’
>Rationale for starting Elliott
The Flyers say they had planned to use backup goalie Brian Elliott at some point when back-to-backs came up in the schedule. This was the first opportunity since the actual playoffs began.
Elliott played well, according to Vigneault.
“Back-to-back certainly had something to it,’’ Vigneault said. “Both our goaltenders all year long have played extremely well, played important games and won us some big games.
“With the quick turnaround and with the three (games) in four (days), I just felt a fresh Brian would give us the best chance to win.’’
>Giroux a “little frustrated’’
Giroux, who has yet to score in these playoffs and who has just one goal in his last 26 playoff games, admitted it’s getting a little frustrating.
He had one golden chance in this game when he dove for a loose puck and tried to shoot it while sprawled on the ice. But goalie Thomas Greiss managed to get a glove on it. That’s the way it’s gone for the Flyers captain.
“Obviously I’m a little frustrated,’’ he said. “I’m not too sure what to say. I know I can play better. I can help this team.’’