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Robert Hagg smiled in wonderment of Oskar Lindblom's presence and how it would transform the Flyers during the regular season.
"As soon as he came in to the rink or to a game, I don't know what happened, but we'd play a hell of a game that night," Hagg said in July about his fellow Swede and close teammate.
In the Eastern Conference's Toronto bubble, eight months after being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, Lindblom is back with the Flyers, he's back on the ice and you can guarantee the team feels his presence.
Just ask head coach Alain Vigneault what it meant to have Lindblom at the center of the ice leading stretches after Sunday's morning skate, to the tune of powerful stick taps from his teammates.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) August 16, 2020
The coaches were almost in tears," Vigneault said in a video interview. "When you think about everything that Oskar's been through, everything that our team has been through, showing the support and going through the different stages, to have him back - every team at the end has a team stretch where a lot of times comments are made about certain things, but today was all about Oskar and the excitement to have him back with our group.
"Today was his first official time that he skated with his teammates since the news [of his diagnosis]. I think he was real nervous, real excited to be back with the group. The group was obviously ecstatic to have him back, even though it was just a morning skate. Great young man, beautiful smile, happy to have him around.
Perfect timing, as well, for both the Flyers and Lindblom. The Flyers are in the midst of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series with the Canadiens, a set that was tied 1-1 entering Sunday night's Game 3. Lindblom just enjoyed his birthday and has long been pushing (and recently waiting) to join the boys.
In early July, Lindblom completed his radiation treatments and has been deemed without evidence of cancer at this time. Following his relentless, draining fight at Pennsylvania Hospital and after signing a new three-year, $9 million contract, Lindblom, who turned 24 years old Saturday, traveled to his native Sweden to spend time with loved ones.
"I just wanted to get back home and see my family and friends for a little bit before I flew back here to join the team," Lindblom said Sunday in a video interview. "I felt like I got the time I needed. In the end there, I felt the itching in my body, I wanted to get back to the team and start skating again. Now I feel energized and I'm ready to go here."
The Flyers are pumped to have him. They rave about his smile and positivity. For Lindblom, his teammates have meant just as much as what No. 23 has meant to them.
Oskar Lindblom in the stands 🖤 pic.twitter.com/Ld0hVNLAMp
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) August 17, 2020
"It's been everything," Lindblom said of their support. "They've talked to me as if I'm still on the team even if I'm not there. Those tough weeks when I felt so bad and trying to think about life, they've called me and texted me, to help get me more energy and it helped me through the whole process. Now I'm here and happier than ever."
He is grateful for all the medical professionals at the University of Pennsylvania that helped make his arrival to Toronto possible.
"They meant everything to me," Lindblom said. "I was there every second week to get treatments. All of them, you can see in the video too, there were a lot of them that helped me all the way. They were so nice to me and helped me every single way that I needed to."
Lindblom, who had to go into quarantine when he arrived to Toronto, is on the Flyers' 31-man roster, which means he's eligible to play in the postseason. Lindblom jumping into playoff hockey after last playing a competitive game on Dec. 7 might seem like a stretch, but the Flyers won't rule anything out. Lindblom and the Flyers don't have a timeframe for his potential return to game action in the postseason.
"To be honest, I have no idea," Lindblom said. "It can take just a couple of weeks, some months, I don't know yet. We'll see how I feel when I start skating here for real with the team and we'll take it from there. I'm not going to stress anything here; just take it slow and see what happens.
"I think it's a little bit of everything here. I just feel like I need to be strong enough that I can put myself in a situation where I'm good enough to play. I don't want to be out there if I'm not going to help the team or put myself in a tough spot. As long as I feel ready and my body is strong enough, I think I would put myself out there, but otherwise, I'll keep practicing and work myself up."
Vigneault is well aware of Lindblom's determination; it's a driving force for the Flyers.
"Kid went home, wanted to see his family and friends after being cleared, then decided to come back to the bubble, spend eight days in his room - he wants to play," Vigneault said. "He's going to get himself in shape and ready to play, and we've got to do our part in continue playing."
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