VOORHEES, N.J. — Samuel Morin thought he was in for another morning of extra preparation. He had gotten pretty used to those types of days in the arduous recovery from a torn ACL suffered on May 9, 2018.
When he rolled into Flyers Skate Zone Wednesday, he finally heard the sweet sound of "you're playing."
"I wasn't even ready for it," Morin said with a smile after morning skate. "I was driving here, having a normal day, not playing, getting ready to bag skate, having a cup of coffee and some rumor was going around the room that I was playing and I was like, 'What the hell?'"
Apparently the news of Morin entering the lineup Wednesday night against the Maple Leafs couldn't be contained with all the excitement for the 6-foot-7 defenseman. Morin hasn't played an NHL game since Nov. 24, 2017. He played just 15 regular-season games last season with the Phantoms because of several lower-body injuries before tearing his ACL in the AHL playoffs.
On Wednesday, Morin tried getting assistant coach Kris Knoblauch to spill the beans.
"On the ice, I went to Knobber, 'Am I playing?'" Morin said. "He wouldn't tell me. I kind of figured it out and was surprised. I was happy and I got a good night of sleep last night, too."
Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon was happy to tell Morin the not-so-breaking news.
"[The coaches] talked about it at length [Tuesday] and he already knew before I told him," Gordon said. "Maybe the joke was on me, right?
"It's been a long road back for him. It's great that he's able to get in, all the hard work that he's put into it, to be able to get rewarded and play some games this year just to ease the burden of having not played for most of the year and get ready for training camp."
The key words there are "get ready."
There's already anticipation for 2019-20 with the Flyers on the brink of elimination from this season's playoff race (see story). There will be competition among the defensemen. Philippe Myers is here and looks primed for a full-time role. Now, Morin is about to see his chance as the focus starts to shift to next season, an important one for the Flyers, who haven't missed the playoffs in consecutive years since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 campaigns.
So while the final six games on the Flyers' schedule equate to little for 2018-19, they mean a ton for Morin and next season's picture.
"This month, it was me alone on the ice and skating," Morin said. "That was really hard, that was the hardest part I think, being alone out there and guys are playing. Me, I just had to be ready, I was trying to keep a smile on my face. It was not easy. At the end, I was like, 'Can I play a game?' But you wake up in the morning, put a smile on your face and don't try to show it. Have fun.
"My year last year was pretty hard mentally. You make the squad at the beginning of the year and you get sent down after a really good camp. Playing really well down there, then bad luck after bad luck after bad luck. It was just a tough year last year and then it transitioned into this year because of my knee. I'm healthy and ready to go back into it."
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