Wednesday afternoon marked the first game of the 2020-21 NHL regular season, with Philadelphia hosting Pittsburgh in a long-awaited battle of Pennsylvania. Despite the visitors scoring first, the back-and-forth contest saw the Flyers take the next three leads, and ultimate seal the deal with two goals in a span of 20 seconds in the third period.
Leading the charge for Philadelphia was Joel Farabee, who put up a goal and three assists in the victory, jumping atop league scoring charts in the process. But more miraculous were the returns to the regular season lineup made by forwards Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom.
“Both guys got a big cheer from their teammates prior to the game,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said following the returns of Patrick and Lindblom Wednesday.
Lindblom returned to the Flyers’ lineup last postseason following a long battle with Ewing’s sarcoma – a bone cancer. He skated in two playoff games for the Flyers, going pointless. His goal on Wednesday marked a triumphant return in one of the NHL’s best feel-good stories in some time.
Patrick, a Winnipeg product who had missed the entire 2019-20 season due to chronic migraines, skated in his first game since April 2, 2019 – a span of 652 days. With his Flyers on the power play late in the first period, an Erik Gustafsson point shot deflected off the 22-year-old and past netminder Tristan Jarry, giving the former Winnipeg Thrashers standout his first goal sine March 9, 2019.
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That first period tally marked Patrick’s first goal in nearly two full calendar years, as the former second overall selection of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft ended his 676-day goal drought, coming up 54 days short of two full years.
“Oskar made several big blocks, Nolan made some great plays,” the game’s first star Joel Farabee said of the two players’ returns. ” They’ve had their journeys and we’re glad to have them back.”
Last suiting up for Philadelphia in the 2018-19 season, Patrick was forced to miss a significant chunk of games as complications stemming from serious migraines limited his ability to function, let alone suit up in professional hockey games. His strong work ethic and hefty offseason workout routines with fellow Brandon Wheat Kings teammate Jayce Hawryluk helped push the Manitoban to the next level.
“I was in the locker room and just gave him a big hug and said it’s so good to have you back,” Patrick’s teammate Travis Konecny told reporters post-game. “It’s been fun watching Patty. He’s in a really good spot, having fun playing hockey. He’s put a lot of time in getting better, it’s incredible to see where he’s at.”
Suiting up on the Flyers’ potent third line alongside Jakub Voracek and James van Riemsdyk, Patrick looked very comfortable while sporting some long locks and a new tinted visor. Over the past number of years, tinted visors have grown in popularity for players with eye sensitivities, post-concussion issues or migraine challenges.
Much like many National Football League players, fellow Manitoban, Matt Calvert of Brandon debuted a pink-tinted visor in the Colorado Avalanche season opener Wednesday evening as well.
“It’s something I’ve really focused on. I stayed in Denver all off-season and did everything possible to have my body ready for camp and improving any area I could,” Calvert said. “Because that’s obviously a thing — if you can’t stay healthy you can’t help your team, and it’s not a great feeling. So definitely a focus of mine this year to put in extra work in doing the little things and still play the way I do.”