Jake Voracek Inadvertently Points Out How Bleak Things Have Gotten for the NHL

Jake Voracek Inadvertently Points Out How Bleak Things Have Gotten for the NHL

As we covered on plenty of occasions, there are positives and negatives to locked out Flyers waiting out their exile in professional leagues overseas.

The plus: they stay relatively sharp. And the well-documented negative: the potential for injury.

News got out Sunday that forward Jake Voracek, who signed a four-year, $17 million contract extension in the offseason, became the first Flyer to go on the shelf while abroad.

Panotch initially reported that Voracek's agent, former Flyer Petr Svoboda, said it was just a knee sprain. But then there was an update to the initial report that Voracek himself said it worse, and finally his club put out a statement that he'll be out four weeks.

The gut-instinct was to go, "four weeks -- oh no," as if it impacted the Flyers, because it obviously happened to a Flyer. But the far more depressing reality is that no one expects the NHL solve its labor strife any time soon, certainly not soon enough to get guys back on the ice within the next month.

So there you have it. Jake Voracek will miss a month of hockey ... for HC Lev Praha. And that month he misses with injury will be the same month every other locked out player will miss in the NHL, regardless of how and where they are spending their time, and whether or not they're injured. Assuming there are no longer-term or nagging complications, it's almost like the injury never happened. It means absolutely nothing.

While you're not watching hockey, we suggest you read this detailed Q&A the Globe and Mail published with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman over the weekend. Even if you're not a "Bettman-guy/girl" -- and let's be honest, there are few who are these days -- it's worth your time.

LINK: Gary Bettman: The Lightning Rod [Globe and Mail]

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Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.