In a discussion about injuries, some guy once told Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle: “If you can skate, you can play.’’
That guy went by the name Bobby Orr.
Yandle, who is poised to tie the NHL’s consecutive games played streak Monday night in a game against the Dallas Stars and break it a night later in a game at the New York Islander, took Orr’s advice to heart.
He has played in 963 straight matches so he’s in position to tie Doug Jarvis’ record of 964 and then eclipse it on Tuesday.
The 35-year-old Yandle, who joined the Flyers as a free agent last summer, never makes a big deal out of the upcoming achievement. He loves the game of hockey and if there’s a game to be played, why miss it?
He’s had some brutally harsh injuries but managed to get through all of them.
Making the milestone even more impressive is that he’s one of only two defensemen – a black-and-blue position by trade – on the top 10 alltime ironman players.
“It’s kind of the way hockey players are built, you try to play through as much pain as you can,’’ Yandle said via media Zoom call after Sunday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. “I don’t think there’s many guys through the season who feel a hundred percent. There have been times when I haven’t felt great It was tough sledding but you just try to battle through it.’’
No word on whether baseball ironman Cal Ripken Jr. has called in yet but no doubt Yandle probably will receive one or two “Cal Ripken of hockey’’ references.
That considered, Yandle is still trying to downplay the signficance of playing more than a decade of hockey night after night.
“I’m trying not to think about it too much,’’ he said. “I’m just trying to focus on one day at a time. Focus on what you’re going to do for that day. That’s just kind of the way I’m wired.’’
Yandle once suffered a broken jaw and had to wear a full cage to protect his face. Perhaps some doubt creeped in but that’s when Hall of Famer Orr spoke up.
“He came to that game in Florida,’’ Yandle recalled. “When it’s a legend like that saying it to you, you have to step up and play.’’
It wouldn’t be a sports story in 2022 without mentioning the perils of COVID-19. Heck, Yandle rooms with Boston buddy Kevin Hayes and Hayes has already tested positive. Also, defenseman Ivan Provorov recently had his ironman streak of 403 games snapped by the illness.
“It’s just the times we’re living in,’’ Yandle said. “It’s stressful for everyone. . .you don’t want anyone to miss games because of that. I just try to say save and do my part.’’
Throughout his career in stops such as Arizona, the New York Rangers and Florida, there was always the possibility of becoming a healthy scratch. In fact, that’s how Jarvis’ streak ended with the Hartford Whalers. But it never happened to Yandle. And he never went to a coach and asked for special consideration.
“That’s not my job,’’ he said. “Every guy wants to play in every game. I’ve never been a guy to mention it (the streak) to a coach. Not one player is bigger than the team. I just hope to be in the lineup every day and help my team.’’
The streak started way back on March 26, 2009 when he played for the Coyotes. Then-coach Wayne Gretzky had scratched him the previous game. Little did anyone know no one would do that again for the better part of 13 years.
Is there a secret to this consistency beyond having a high pain threshold?
“Just a love for the game and having fun,’’ Yandle said. “At the end of the day, we’re all playing a game we all have dreams of playing growing up. I remember Ray Whitney saying to me: ‘As long as there’s an NHL symbol on your jersey, that means you’re having a good day.’ I don’t take that for granted.’’
Interim head coach Mike Yeo indicated Yandle’s consistency has been inspirational.
“It’s an incredible streak,’’ Yeo said. “Any time you’re part of anything historic and you’re doing it at the highest level is an incredible accomplishment. He wants to play. You have to play through injuries and there’s no way you play that many games without injuries that are painful. It takes an awful lot of professionalism and it’s an amazing accomplishment.’’
>Allison has sprained knee
Right wing Wade Allison, just called up from the Phantoms, suffered a sprained MCL in his knee during Saturday’s 6-3 loss at Buffalo. Yeo said he expects Allison to return after the Feb. 3-4 NHL All Star break. This is not the knee Allison had surgery on.