Shayne Gostisbehere and the Flyers want to make sure the defenseman is fully back up to speed.
He was not when he returned briefly Feb. 6 in the team's 5-0 loss to the Devils.
On Thursday, Gostisbehere was sent to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley on a conditioning loan. The 26-year-old blueliner underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Jan. 14 and missed 10 games. After coming back in the defeat to New Jersey, Gostisbehere did not feel like himself, dealt with some lingering pain and has missed the last seven games, including Thursday night's matchup with the Blue Jackets.
“When you look at it, serious injury, three weeks to a month, and we gave him two 25-minute practices — little unfair," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Feb. 7. "Maybe we should have considered sending him to Lehigh Valley for a couple of days and a couple of games because that is a fairly significant injury."
A conditioning loan can last for a maximum of 14 consecutive days. Gostisbehere is obviously not expected to use all 14. The Phantoms play road games Friday and Saturday night, then don't play again until the following weekend.
When Gostisbehere returns to the big club, Vigneault will once again be faced with difficult (and possibly game-to-game) decisions moving forward thanks to seven healthy defensemen. Philippe Myers has shown glimpses of big-time potential alongside Travis Sanheim, while Robert Hagg entered Thursday with nine points (three goals, six assists) and a plus-18 mark over 22 games since Dec. 15.
Hagg, 25, is set to become a restricted free agent in the offseason, while Gostisbehere, 26, has seen his name pop up in trade rumors going back to last season.
The NHL trade deadline is Monday of next week and the Flyers appear to be getting healthier on defense.
More decisions are good problems to have for the playoff-hopeful Flyers.
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