Well, the hockey season is drawing closer as NHL teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers, opened training camp on Saturday.
For the first time, I was in attendance at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. Before we move into notes from camp, let me say that the turnout was outstanding. It's being reported that there were more than 1,800 fans, figures larger than last year's crowd.
Sure, the Flyers are coming off a Stanley Cup appearance, and there's a lot of buzz surrounding the team, but it shows how faithful the fans truly are. Nearly 2,000 fans took time out of their busy days to watch a bunch of guys practice.
That says a lot.
Now, let's move into actual camp-related news.
— Nikolai Zherdev was rather impressive as he was really fast with confidence on the puck in his first practice with the team. As he arrived one day before the start of camp, no one knew what kind of shape Zherdev was in. Well, he was ready to go.
Zherdev was working with Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk, a line that could be interesting to watch during preseason. Zherdev, who was originally believed to be brought in to play on Mike Richards' right wing, looked to have good chemistry with Carter and van Riemsdyk.
Early in practice, Zherdev was skating through the zone on a three on-ice sessions, pulled off a toe-drag and beat goalie Brian Boucher on a wrister. It was a beauty.
— Bill Guerin was playing with Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere as Ville Leino was wearing the yellow sweater, which means no contact. Leino, still recovering from surgery, says he will have to go another week without contact.
The Flyers do not want to break up the Hartnell-Briere-Leino line that was so successful in the playoffs, but Guerin could easily step in for Leino on that unit as Peter Laviolette had him skating with Briere and Hartnell in drills.
Guerin was pretty good for a 39-year-old on a tryout basis, but we all know he has a contract with the Flyers. It's only a matter of time before general manager Paul Holmgren presents him with one once he figures out the cap situation.
Leino was skating before the rest of the team came out to practice with Chris Pronger (knee), Blair Betts (shoulder), and Johan Backlund (hip). Like Leino, Betts will have to go at least another week without contact.
— Sergei Bobrovsky is the real deal, folks.
For the first time I've seen him play, I was very impressed. He wasn't letting many pucks by him, and he flashed his leather quite a few times. His glove is lightning fast, and hes' very quick in the butterfly.
He's got good size, and he's looks like an NHL goalie. Granted, he was going up against the Phantoms, he looked like he belonged on the ice a couple hours earlier.
Bobrovsky made several big saves that made the place go wild. For example, a skater was coming in on his right, took a shot in which he made the initial stop on, but he left the rebound out for grabs. The trailer got the puck, fired it only to be robbed by Bob.
At that point, I knew that he's legitimate.
While he still has things to work on, he appeared a lot closer to the NHL than I thought he was entering camp, and while it was only day one, it was enough to open my eyes even more towards the future in net for the Flyers.
The Flyers will hold their first scrimmage on Sunday, and will host their annual "Meet The Flyers" television program after the players partake in camp.
One final note, the ice team tryouts took place after the Flyers and Phantoms practiced, and may I add, the way they handled the tryouts was extremely unfair to the participants.
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