TORONTO — After Shayne Gostisbehere left Saturday night's 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury, the Flyers could be in jeopardy of losing two key defensemen in the span of a week.
Gostisbehere's status for Monday's game against Arizona remains in question. The Flyers did not have an update on the third-year defenseman Sunday but did recall defenseman Samuel Morin from the Phantoms.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall now has the attention of those aboard the Flyers' express who may not have given a second thought there could be this degree of turbulence in the first month of the season.
"I always use a number — 10 defensemen," Hextall said a week ago after Andrew MacDonald suffered a lower-body injury. "We've done that for years, where you have 10 guys who can play a few games if need be and it's hard.
"It happens and it happens quick, and you've got to have guys that can play. Maybe they're not full-time players yet or even will be, but they can play a few games. An important part of an organization is having depth."
Supplying organizational depth must be on the radar of any NHL GM, especially during the calmness of the summer months. While the Flyers aren't quite at that point of panic, Hextall is now looking at possibly playing his eighth defenseman on that 10-man pecking order.
When the season began Oct. 4 in San Jose, the Flyers had the luxury of mixing and matching their defensive pairings based on skill set and familiarity of playing on the left or right side, while also casting rookies in a role and a responsibility that wouldn't necessarily overwhelm them.
At that time, eight defensemen was simply a good problem to have. Now, it’s a problem that may have to be solved before Monday night.
The Nos. 8, 9 and 10 hitters in the Flyers' lineup of blueliners were Morin, veteran T.J Brennan and right-hander Mark Alt, who has played just one NHL game. Brennan is currently unavailable, still a week or two away from a return from injury.
Hextall opted with Morin, who at the least will serve as the seventh defenseman Monday night depending on if Gostisbehere is available.
When camp opened in September, Hextall believed he had enough reserve that it didn't warrant bringing in a veteran on a professional tryout. Mark Streit, 40, signed a one-year deal with the defensively-dismal Canadiens and has already been released.
Streit has been seen working out on his own at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.
"It's not easy," Hextall said. "It's not easy to keep depth with 31 teams now, and quite frankly, I don't believe there's enough (players)."
Unless Hextall elects to go outside the organization, Morin is the likely and most obvious choice here.
"I don't anticipate (signing someone)," Hextall said a week ago. "We've got enough guys down there who we think can play on a day-to-day basis. We got guys down there, multiple guys, we feel can fill in for us when need be."
Then, the more pressing questions will be left for head coach Dave Hakstol, who will be tasked with trying to maintain order on the back end.
Following the loss of MacDonald, there were indeed some rough patches. Hakstol paired rookies Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg together in Ottawa, which lasted all of 20 minutes before that plan was scrapped. There was a considerable amount of mixing and matching before the Flyers finally settled down in Toronto, and then Gostisbehere's injury happened.
What could the Flyers be faced with for Monday’s game against a winless Arizona team if Gostisbehere doesn't play?
Two of the Flyers' most consistent defensemen so far, and after Gostisbehere went down with an injury in Toronto, Provorov and Hagg were the top two in minutes played.
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas
This pair has played rather effectively in the games when Sanheim was scratched: San Jose, Washington, Florida — all Flyers victories. Hakstol should feel somewhat comfortable again, even though they’ll be tasked with playing against more talented lines.
Here’s Hakstol’s conundrum. He could elect to spread out his three rookies among his pairings or he could roll the dice and see how Morin and Sanheim respond together. I have a hard time believing he would put this much inexperience on the ice, but we saw it in Ottawa. Otherwise, a Manning-Sanheim combo would be the likelier choice.