VOORHEES, N.J. – The buzz around the Flyers’ training camp is things are getting back to normal and nowhere is it more evident than the early performances of Oskar Lindblom.
Coach Alain Vigneault broke the news on Saturday about Lindblom’s fitness testing which showed he’s back to “pre-cancer’’ level. Lindblom had spent the first half of 2020 battling through Ewing’s sarcoma – a rare form of bone cancer – and was never quite himself when he returned for the 2020-21 season.
But a healthy summer of training back in Sweden along with a clean bill of health from doctors have combined to have him going full speed through the first four days of camp.
It’s Vigneault’s hope Lindblom can return to his form of the 2018-19 season when he led the team in goals at the mid-December mark before receiving the cancer diagnosis.
“Last year was just a battle to forecheck and backcheck,’’ Lindblom explained on Sunday after the camp’s first scrimmage at the Flyers Training Center. “Now I can do what I want without thinking about how tired I’m going to be next shift. It feels good to be that way.’’
The Flyers showed faith in Lindblom by signing him to a three-year, $9-million contract extension back on July 22, 2020 shortly after he completed his chemotherapy treatments.
During the entire 2020 calendar year, the amount of support Lindblom received from both the Flyers and around the National Hockey League was nothing short of amazing.
And that includes the fans. Sunday, they were jammed into the FTC for the scrimmage and there was plenty of cheering whenever Lindblom hit the ice.
“It was the most fun to see all the fans in here,’’ Lindblom said. “I’ve never seen that many fans ever (in the FTC).’’
Just wait until he hears the cheers at the Wells Fargo Center next month.
>Ellis-Provorov partnership in full swing
It’s no secret the Flyers traded with Nashville to bring in veteran defenseman Ryan Ellis to partner with Ivan Provorov on the No. 1 unit.
There had been a void there since Matt Niskanen retired after the 2019-20 season.
Ellis comes over from the Predators with a wealth of experience and knowledge. Provorov and Ellis both love the game of hockey, spend hours and hours at the rink and this tandem should work out well.
“We’re trying to get to know each other both on and off the ice as much as possible,’’ Ellis said. “I’m just following him around, working out, riding bikes, skaing together. I’m just trying to get to know him as a person and a player as much as possible. I think that chemistry goes a long way. When you’re friends off the ice, I think it promotes good things on the ice.’’
You can expect to see these two in a lot of different situations, including the penalty kill, which certainly needs improvement over last season.
The two share a similar work ethic.
“Provy is a beast, I just follow him around,’’ said Ellis with a grin. “I just want to get as big as Provy and do my thing with him. He loves the game. I didn’t think anyone loved the game as much as I did but he’s right up there. He’s always here early; we both get here at the same time.’’
Vigneault has been impressed with Ellis’ presence on the ice and in the locker room.
“You can tell as soon as you meet the guy, the way he behaves, he’s a real pro,’’ Vigneault said. “I see him spending a lot of time with Provy off the ice, talking to one another. On the ice, he’s always looking to help, steer the right way. Everything that he was promised to be is exactly what I’ve seen so far. He’s going to be a big addition to our team.’’
>Jones looks sharp
New goaltender Martin Jones looked sharp in the scrimmage and that was no surprise to Vigneault, who saw him as a youth when he coached back in Vancouver.
“He and his dad go real far back,’’ Vigneault said. “His dad was in charge of the rink when I was back in Vancouver. I was with him for seven years, saw the kid grow up in junior hockey. He’s spending a lot of time with ‘Dilly’ (goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh) on and off the nice now, to get his game to where he believes it can get and we believe, too.’’
>Frost line clicking
Vigneault is experimenting with a line of rookie Morgan Frost centering Joel Farabee and James van Riemsdyk. This one might be a keeper when the season opens on Oct. 15 against the Canucks.
“I’m very happy with what I’m seeing from Frosty,’’ Vigneault said. “I didn’t know what to expect because he didn’t play last year (shoulder surgery). I liked him in rookie camp, he’s come here and he’s continued. You see physically that he’s confident, he’s skating well. We worked on the power play and I liked a lot of his decisions with the puck. We’ll see moving forward how those guys do together.’’