VOORHEES, N.J. — No one besides Nolan Patrick knows how he really feels because he’s not sharing any exact information about his comeback from a chronic migraine headache condition.
But this much we can be sure of: If the Flyers’ young center plays in the season opener on Jan. 13, it will be his first NHL game in exactly 670 days.
That’s a long time to be sidelined in any sport but especially ice hockey, which demands both timing and conditioning.
Yet here we are in early January and on Monday there was Patrick on the Skate Zone ice, taking part in a scrimmage and moving like he didn’t have a care in the world.
It wasn’t exactly your head-banging brand of professional sticks and pucks but at least it’s a good first step.
Actually, Patrick has been taking part in informal workouts for several weeks and reports no ill effects.
He’s hopeful this positive trend will continue and he will be able to resume his career shortly.
The Flyers have their fingers crossed. A healthy Patrick would certainly add some needed depth at center behind Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes.
“It’s obviously been awhile since I participated in everything with the team,’’ Patrick said. “I’ve been scrimmaging the last couple weeks since I’ve been here so I’m pretty used to that.’’
The second-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft registered 13 goals in each of his first two seasons before he was sidelined by the headache problem.
There was speculation this might be a career-threatening situation, so to see him back out there seems to have lifted everyone’s spirits.
“I’m feeling better everyday,’’ Patrick said. “It’s always mentally tough whenever you’re injured. You want to be out there. It’s an injury that affects you more mentally than others would.
“But I feel good and hopefully I’ll be back soon.’’
Patrick is reluctant to discuss the actual details of his condition, including the prospect of taking part in live-contact action.
“We’re going to see how camp goes,’’ Patrick said. “I feel very comfortable.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault spoke in optimistic tones about Patrick’s progress.
“I thought Nolan looked really good today,’’ Vigneault said. “Had a couple chats with him the last couple days. He feels good about where he is, really upbeat about his energy level.
“To see the excitement in him about being back with his teammates, working and having fun. . .I see the excitement in his teammates with him being back.’’
Of course there are going to be some nerves before Patrick really gets back into the swing of things.
“He hasn’t played in awhile,’’ Vigneault said. “But I think for him and the team, this was a very positive day and a step forward. We’ll take it a day at a time and see how he’s doing.’’
Because of the length of Patrick’s absence, Vigneault is actually getting his first look at the young pivot. Patrick missed all of Vigneault’s first year with the team.
“This is basically it for me,’’ Vigneault said. “Last year I saw bits and pieces, a few times with our group (during drills in informal practices). I never recall him being with the whole team.
“As far as getting to know him and what kind of young man he is and what type of player, this is really my first introduction. I have been around him for a couple weeks and really like what I see.’’
Patrick impressed teammates with his work ethic during his first two seasons.
“I really like what I see on the ice but also off the ice,’’ Vigneault said. “His demeanor, he’s got a beautiful smile, so let’s take it a day at a time.
“This is a very exciting time for him. I’m sure he’s going to do fine.’’
Vigneault said Patrick’s going through all the proper medical tests and has been cleared for contact.