Matt Niskanen always marvels at Oskar Lindblom's presence.
“Fantastic, every time he shows up," he said. "The guy never stops smiling.”
Pretty impressive given the circumstances.
“It really is," Niskanen said. "He was like that obviously before he got the news, and hasn’t changed. The guys love having him here. Even to chat for just a few minutes and see his face, it’s great.”
On Monday at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers were once again uplifted by Lindblom, their 23-year-old teammate who is battling Ewing’s sarcoma. It was picture day and the Flyers were all smiles. And there was Lindblom, wearing his No. 23 jersey, standing, smiling and completing the group photo.
“Everyone is in a better mood when he’s around," Joel Farabee said. "He’s a huge part of this team, so having him around is great. I know it made my day a whole lot better."
Lindblom, who was diagnosed in December and continues to undergo treatment, remains a crucial part of the team. Lindblom's nameplate always hangs over his locker at the Wells Fargo Center and on the road. With his recovery and the club's schedule, Lindblom and his teammates see each other periodically. But when he visits, the Flyers are left beaming.
“The boys try to visit him as much as we can," Ivan Provorov said. "He’s been around for a few team events and it was definitely great to see him around the locker room, around the boys. Everyone misses him and it’s great to see that he’s recovering well.
“With hockey sometimes, you forget about just life in general. This is something bigger than a lot of things and it’s just great to see him happy and great to see him smiling.”
The Flyers, winners of nine straight games, are fighting for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Pressure builds this time of year as March gives way to playoff hockey in April.
Knowing Lindblom's fight with cancer puts wins and losses in perspective for the Flyers.
"This is just a hockey game," Kevin Hayes said. "Obviously we want to win every night, our coaches want to win, our fans want us to win, but hockey is an extreme lower level of anything compared to cancer.
“It’s always a good day when you see Oskar. He’s going through a battle and we see him every chance we get. He just brings a bunch of energy to this room. I don’t know how I would handle what he’s going through, and he’s handled it with professionalism. He brings everyone into a happier place. If you’re having a bad day, you don’t have a bad day anymore when you see Oskar."
The 2019-20 Flyers are a tight-knit group.
Rallying behind Lindblom has brought the team closer together.
“It’s awesome," Michael Raffl said. "He’s part of the team. We care about each other here. It’s always nice to have him around and seeing how he’s doing, how everything is developing.”
Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault can't get enough of Lindblom's smile.
“He was in great spirits," Vigneault said Monday after practice. "It was great having Oskar in the team picture today."
What would be a team picture without that smile?
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