The Flyers return to an NHL arena for practice this morning means one thing. Training camp and preseason are over and it’s time to drop the puck on regular season hockey.
The team traveled from Orleans, Mass., on Cape Cod to Boston on Monday to prepare for the Bruins on Wednesday (one of four games scheduled for opening night in the NHL) and after one last practice at Charles Moore Arena, the team felt ready to get the regular season underway.
“You can just tell, obviously in Cape Cod we had some fun with paintball and stuff like that, but once you were on the ice you could tell that practices are being ramped up; guys are going a lot harder,” said Brayden Schenn. “You can tell the season is approaching, guys are getting prepared to play the opener and the feeling around everyone is a lot different too.”
Practice wasn’t a typical 40-minutes and out for the two sessions during the team retreat. They lasted well over an hour with players staying on for extra time working on shooting, face-offs and attention to small details.
“I think preseason you use a lot of that [extra time], to knock off the rust and try and prepare yourself as best as you can to get ready for the year,” added Schenn. “But here, the guys are trying to keep the uptempo practices going, keep the legs moving and that translates into the games.”
And goaltenders are no exception.
“I think the guys are definitely looking forward to meaningful games,” said Steve Mason. “I work on a little bit of everything, obviously movement is key, but for me the biggest thing is timing. Reading the play off the rush, reading the puck off the stick of the shooters and making sure you’re tracking the puck into your body.”
With the end of head coach Craig Berube’s first training camp, and the start of last year’s regular season in the back of fans mind, the Flyers have been preparing for the last month to come out of the gates much faster, stronger and with a completely different mindset.
“For me training camp we really harped on five man gaps everywhere, having people around for puck support and obviously playing good defense and that’s a five-man deal,” said Berube. “You have to have everybody on the ice committed to 200-foot hockey.”
Although Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds participated in the team bonding exercises on Saturday, a lower-body injury kept him off the ice on Sunday as the team resumed practice while staying on Cape Cod.
But he didn’t miss a second straight practice.
Simmonds rejoined his teammate on the ice on Monday by participating in full drills and spending the full length of practice on the ice.
“I'm really excited,” said Simmonds about the 2014-15 campaign approaching. “We have a real tight team. We play for one another and it’s a joy to be in that dressing room every day.”
As far as his return? He says it’s still up in the air and a lot depends on how he feels a day after Monday’s skate.
“Just in case I am able to go on Wednesday you want to be able to get today -- a hard skate out of the way. Tuesday won’t be as hard for me, especially at the end, I won’t get bagged.”
Good news for Flyers fans is that Simmonds wasn’t off the ice for too long, missing just two sessions over the three-day weekend, and is expected to skate Tuesday morning.