Cam Atkinson pretty much declared himself cleared for contact when he rumbled with Rasmus Ristolainen.
If you're going to put the body through a physical test, battling the bruising 6-foot-4 defenseman ain't a bad way to do it.
Atkinson, yet to play this season because of an upper-body injury, pushed the limits Monday in practice at Flyers Training Center.
On one rep, he checked Ristolainen into the boards. During another drill focused on playing in small areas, both went down to the ice. Atkinson had the look of a pest, eventually knocking off Ristolainen's helmet.
So, cleared for contact, huh?
"Yeah, 1-0 on Risto," Atkinson said with a laugh, standing next to a seated Ristolainen at their adjacent locker stalls. "Just trying to push myself to see how I do after."
How did he feel?
"I felt good," Atkinson said. "Just good to be back with the guys and battling, going through a lovely Torts practice like that was. Feels good."
The 33-year-old winger wouldn't announce a timetable for his return but said he's "definitely getting closer."
"We're obviously being a little bit precautious right now," Atkinson said. "But I'm definitely going to be back sooner than later.
"Today was actually like the first full contact practice. Feel really good."
Sunday and Monday marked the first time since Nov. 6-7 that the Flyers had two days between games, so John Tortorella put his club through a hard practice. It went over an hour and featured plenty of skating. Tortorella appeared to pause a drill for laps of skating.
He said it was "just to move the blood."
Atkinson believed the Flyers needed it.
"Felt like a training camp practice," he said. "We have to be prepared to practice. That's one thing that we can control. Obviously we weren't, so we're going to suffer. We're not in any position to practice lightly."
The Flyers are on a 10-game skid (0-7-3) in which they've been outscored 44-20. They have sorely missed Atkinson. He's one of the team's leaders, one of its top goal scorers and has history with Tortorella.
"The best compliment I can give a guy is calling him a hockey player. He just loves to play," Tortorella said. "It's been killing him not to. He sees us going down this road. I've known him for so long now, he wants to make a difference every time he's on the ice. When that time happens, it's going to be a big boost to our team."
Watching hasn't been easy for Atkinson.
"It's tough because you want to be out there and help the team," he said. "But I wasn't in a position to put myself in a spot. I'm definitely getting closer. I'm going to help the team as much as I can, try to score some goals and obviously start winning some games."
Atkinson is currently one of six forwards the Flyers are missing as they try to find a win.
"He's going to be huge for the team," Lukas Sedlak, who played with Atkinson in Columbus, said. "He's one of the leaders, a veteran guy, an experienced guy.
"He knows what it's about to play in the league, what it takes to win games. We can't wait to have him back and other guys, too."
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