Center Nolan Patrick was back at the Flyers’ practice Monday in Voorhees and said he expects to play this season, but coach Alain Vigneault expressed guarded optimism.

Patrick, who has missed the entire season because of a migraine disorder, will be a regular at practices this week. He has yet to be cleared for contact, but the fact he is practicing is a positive development.

After practice, Patrick said he expects to play this season, but added “you can’t have a timetable for this injury.” The Flyers have 23 regular-season games remaining.

Patrick, 21, said he felt “good enough to get through practice, so that’s good.” Asked if the headaches had disappeared, Patrick said: “I’m feeling good enough to practice, so that’s a positive. From a mental side of things, it’s way nicer to be around your teammates."

Added Patrick: “For sure I’m better than I was, and hopefully it keeps on improving.”

Vigneault said Patrick has been cleared to practice with the team but added that people should not get excited until "he gets sent to Lehigh Valley because that means he’s getting close. Lehigh Valley means he’s going down there for conditioning and getting some games in.”

Vigneault said he had “no idea” whether Patrick was close to being sent to the Flyers’ AHL farm team. He said there’s “no way he could play here without going down there and getting a couple games in and see how he reacts.”

Patrick, who was drafted second overall by the Flyers in 2017, scored 13 goals in each of his first two seasons.

The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 24, and Patrick’s availability to play might factor into whether general manager Chuck Fletcher is active in the market.

“Obviously, going into the trade deadline, you want to know what your lineup is for the rest of the year, so it’s not like I’m trying to get back just for that,” Patrick said. “Obviously if we can have a window of when I could be back would be helpful, but it’s tough to figure out.”

Special-needs players join Flyers

After their practice, the Flyers were joined on the ice by players from their youth special-needs team. The Flyers gave the young players one-on-one instruction, and when the session ended, the Flyers saluted them with stick taps on the ice and sideboards.

“I was just glad they were having fun out there,” goalie Carter Hart said. “It kind of puts things in perspective for us that it’s just a game and it’s all about having fun. At their level, the minor hockey level, I think that’s what’s important. You see all the smiles on their faces and how much fun they were having just skating around, scoring goals and meeting some of the guys.”

Eight-year-old J.J. Howlett (#68) from Cherry Hill and nine-year-old Josie Sweeney (#3) from Pemberton, N.J., celebrate after scoring a goal against Carter Hart. The Flyers hosted special-needs students after practice Monday in Voorhees.
ZACK HILL / Flyers
Eight-year-old J.J. Howlett (#68) from Cherry Hill and nine-year-old Josie Sweeney (#3) from Pemberton, N.J., celebrate after scoring a goal against Carter Hart. The Flyers hosted special-needs students after practice Monday in Voorhees.

Breakaways

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere’s sore left knee has improved and he was able to skate Sunday and before Monday’s practice, Vigneault said. The coach said Gostisbehere should be 100% Tuesday but didn’t know if he would have to go on a rehab assignment to the Phantoms. ... The Flyers will play 10 of their next 14 games at home.