COLUMBUS, Ohio - Jake Voracek says this will be a very special Christmas.
"My first one since it happened," the Flyers' chatty right winger said the other day.
He was referring to his May 22 car crash in the Czech Republic. Driving his blue Ferrari in his hometown of Kladno, Voracek unsuccessfully tried to swerve around a pickup truck; he struck the truck and then hit a tree and telephone pole.
When you look at photos of the mangled vehicle - the damage was estimated at $148,000 - Voracek is lucky to have escaped a serious injury.
"I think of it on a day-to-day basis," Voracek said. "Sometimes I think about it when I'm home and watching TV by myself. I start thinking about how fortunate I was. I get chills over my arms when I think about it and how things could have been different. If I was going slower or faster, it could have been worse. You just don't know."
After a breakout season in 2013 (22 goals in 48 games), Voracek struggled in this season's first month. He didn't score his first goal until the 10th game, and he had just one goal in his first 16 contests.
But his sluggish start had nothing to do with the car crash and everything to do with an injury suffered in the preseason. Voracek injured his lower back when he crashed into the left post in a 2-1 preseason loss to New Jersey. He missed the last two exhibition games, and when he returned he didn't seem to have as much speed early in the season.
"His back," coach Flyers coach Craig Berube said, "was bothering him quite a bit. I'm sure it had an effect on him."
"I'm not used to being hurt," Voracek said. "I've missed maybe eight games in six years."
So he played through the pain.
"I don't want to make excuses, but my back wasn't fine for about seven or eight games, and after that I just needed to get my legs back - and now I'm feeling pretty good," he said.
Lately, Voracek has picked up the pace. He seems to be skating better, and he had a total of six goals in his last six games entering Saturday night's game against his former team, Columbus.
Voracek, 24, has always had a pass-first mentality, but he is shooting the puck more in recent games, and the results have been encouraging.
A quick chemistry has developed between Voracek and his linemates, Claude Giroux and hardworking rookie Michael Raffl. Raffl replaced Scott Hartnell on Dec. 12, and the new trio has been extremely productive, collecting a combined 22 points and a plus-17 rating in its first four games as a unit.
"It's tough to do things on your own. You need a line, and right now the line is going good," Berube said. "Giroux is playing better, and I think having Raffl on that line really helps Jake. He's starting to get more shots through on the power play. He's shooting more. He doesn't have a great shot, but it doesn't matter. You put it on net, and things happen."
His back healed, the 6-foot-2, 214-pound Voracek is noticeably quicker than in the season's first month.
"He's attacking the net, shooting off of his speed, and just has more of an all-around team game," Berube said. "I think he was a real good individual player when he came here, and now he's more of a give-and-go player."
Voracek says he is counting his blessings this Christmas. He knows all about former Flyers goalie Pelle Lindbergh's losing his life in a 1985 car crash.
"I'm just thankful I had that car because that car is very safe," he said with conviction.
After a slow start, Jake Voracek has been playing better of late. Here are his scoring totals this season heading into Saturday night
Goals Assists Points
First 16 games 1 4 5
Last 19 games 8 9 17