The city is caught up in Red October, but the Philadelphia Flyers have some excitement of their own.
While the Phillies are trying to close out the Atlanta Braves, the Flyers will attempt to start their season on a positive note Thursday as they face former teammate Ivan Provorov and the Blue Jackets in Columbus.
“The games can’t start any quicker,” Flyers coach John Tortorella said on Wednesday, “because it’s been a long camp.”
The Flyers and Blue Jackets are expected to be bottom feeders in the Metropolitan Division, but that doesn’t dampen the teams’ enthusiasm for the opener.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, the game is even more intriguing because they get to face Provorov, the leader of their defense for several years before being dealt to Columbus in the offseason.
Provorov served as a mentor last season to Cam York, and the two spent a lot of time on the same pairing. York is expected to be on the top pairing Thursday, alongside Travis Sanheim.
“It’s going to be a little weird, for sure,” York said. “Obviously me and Provy were pretty close. We played together for a good chunk of the year, so I know him pretty well. He’s a class act and someone who gave a lot to this organization. He played good and hard every night for us. We’re definitely going to miss him, and definitely looking forward to playing him.”
He said Provorov was “someone I looked up to, and it’ll be fun to play against him, for sure. He did a lot for me when he was here.”
Left winger Scott Laughton said it will be a challenge whenever Provorov is on the ice.
“He’s a good player. Really good at breaking the puck out,” Laughton said. “He’s a good skater and really good defensively, so it’s going to be a tough challenge. And I think it’ll probably be pretty exciting for him to face his former team.”
After Thursday’s morning skate, Provorov talked to reporters about his time in Philadelphia.
“Overall, the last three years, the way the team played over there is just not really my game,” he said. “It was a lot of rimming, throwing the puck away.”
He said he considers himself a player who can “make plays” and “play with the puck,” and the Flyers’ style made him feel “it was making my game worse.”
To be on a team like Columbus that “is allowed to make plays, it’s been refreshing. I can actually play my game,” he said.
Laughton, 29, has been with the Flyers for parts of 10 seasons, but that doesn’t diminish the excitement that a season-opener creates.
“There’s nothing really like it,” he said. “From August through camp, you want to get it going. You’ve trained long enough and want to get back to where you need to be. It’s exciting for everyone, especially with the way we’re going. We’re trying to build something. and we’ve brought in some really good guys to do that.”
Laughton says “we have a good belief in this room. We have a good idea of what every line can bring, and I think that’s where it starts, having that belief and working toward something.”
“We want to be better than last year. Just improve every day, every week and don’t overthink it,” said center Sean Couturier, who is returning after missing 1 1/2 seasons with back injuries. “There’s not too many expectations on us, but I think in this locker room, we believe in ourselves and we can become contenders eventually.”
The Philadelphia Flyers, who are calling this a New Era of Orange, are starting their 56th season. They are 27-19-8 in openers, and 9-8-5 when starting on the road.
Provorov is expected to be on the Blue Jackets’ second pairing, next to Damon Severson. … Based on the morning skate, Rasmus Ristolainen will miss the opener with an undisclosed injury that the Flyers are calling minor. … The Jackets are led by defenseman Zach Werenski, winger Johnny Gaudreau (Gloucester Catholic), center Boone Jenner, and center Patrik Laine. … Flyers right winger Cam Atkinson starred for Columbus from 2011-21. … Columbus went 4-3-1 in the preseason, while the Flyers went 3-2-1.