If Training Camp was divided into four parts, then the Flyers are through the first three-quarters with opening night just over a week away.
Peter Laviolette's club has gone through four preseason games in three nights, a series of roster cuts and now a team bonding excursion to Lake Placid, NY.
A trip he saw as a critical one at this point in the preseason as opposed to in the middle of the regular season.
"I think getting together, getting away and spending time is always a plus for your team," said Laviolette. "The drills are the drills. We can do those anywhere. The system is the vehicle. It doesn't necessarily earn the win, but if the system's in place and the players understand, you've got a chance at being successful. Then it comes down to the players and how hard they play, how hard they play for each other and I think a lot of that factors in off the ice and the bonds that you build… that's the difference maker for me."
Judging from the guys on the ice, it sounds as if Laviolette's idea to get away at an early part of the season is working.
"I think all three days in Lake Placid were fun," said Scott Hartnell. "To get the guys together for longer than full day or half a day at the rink, it's pretty cool. You get to hear some funny stories about guys who haven't been here before, you get to know the new guys and reconnect with the guys that have been here a long time."
The team bonding also saw a day away from the rink all together. Players and coaches went deep into the Adirondack woods to go through military exercises, friendly competition against each other and work as a unit to complete missions.
"There were around six of us on a team and we had to balance a pole that was filled with water. We had to go up and down a hill. It was actually really heavy. We had to crawl under a sewer tunnel underneath the ground and there were also paintball games where we had a mission to retrieve a care package and deliver it." said Zac Rinaldo. "It was definitely a different experience, and it involved a lot of thinking outside the box and being placed out of your comfort zone."
Max Talbot, the veteran center and Stanley Cup champion, agreed and liked the fact that the annual trip came before the season rather than midway through it.
"You talk about communication, teamwork, effort and seeing the big picture," said Talbot. "This is when you're with everybody. I think everybody is at the same stage before the season. It's about making an objective before the season, talking about it and realizing we're all in the same boat."
Make no mistake about it though. As thrilling as it is for Hartnell, Giroux, Rinaldo, Talbot and the rest of the squad, the last and most important part of camp is about to get underway.
And everyone from the coaching staff to the players know it.
"You can tell the guys are starting to ramp up a little bit too," added Laviolette. That first 45 minutes out there this morning was the best we've moved going up and down the ice. It was really fast, quick and guys really pushed the pace, so that was the sharpest we've looked since we've been together as a group."
The competition will be heavy for the final three preseason games and ultimately the last round of cuts to make the roster for Oct. 2 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs at the Wells Fargo Center.
"There's some depth, there's room and we're still looking," said Laviolette. "Things aren't settled here yet so it should be interesting."
GIROUX UPDATE & MORE
Fans might very well see Flyers captain Claude Giroux return to the ice for their preseason game on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center.
"I guess I'll know Tuesday morning, but right now the plan is for me to play, but I could wake up tomorrow and not feel good or whatever, so we just have to go day-by-day," said Giroux.
Also on the injury front, Vincent Lecavalier and Wayne Simmonds did not participate in Sunday's practice. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said each were having a bout with the Flu.