Defenseman Ivan Provorov had been skating by himself just outside Wilkes-Barre, Pa., during the NHL season's long pause, but getting back on the ice recently at the Flyers' practice facility with a handful of his teammates has been much more fulfilling.
"I guess it feels a little more real that hockey is almost back," he said.
The season was halted March 12 by the coronavirus.
The Flyers, like the rest of the NHL, will open training camps July 10. Until then, players are allowed to voluntarily skate and work out in small groups at their practice rinks. Those who have been in the area are working out in Voorhees, while others are skating at rinks near their homes in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
"It's been great to get back to the practice facility that we're used to skating in and working out and seeing some of the guys come in and spend some time together at the rink," Provorov said after a session Wednesday in Voorhees. "Great to talk and just catch up."
Skating near Wilkes-Barre, he said, helped keep the rust off.
"I was lucky enough I was able to keep skating and try not to lose any strides," Provorov said. "I think the practices here over the last week and a half have been great and are definitely helping to get back into game shape, and hopefully more of the guys will be back soon and we'll have more team practices."
The Flyers, who had won nine of their last 10 games when the season was stopped, have clinched a playoff spot, and when play resumes, they will be in a round-robin tournament with Boston, Tampa Bay, and Washington to determine their Eastern Conference seeding.
"It was definitely unfortunate when the season was paused," said Provorov, 23, who spent most of the break staying with the family he lived with in Wilkes-Barre when he was a teenager and moved from Russia.
"We were definitely rolling, and like I said before, it was the best hockey I've been involved in in the four years I've been here. Hopefully it doesn't take us a long time to get back to that. I think the three weeks of team practices are definitely going to help."