Updated: 1:07 p.m.
VOORHEES, N.J. — It took five regular-season games for the Flyers to realize what they told us back in early September.
They rushed defenseman Andrew MacDonald back from a lower-body injury he suffered during an offseason workout, and as it turned out, he wasn’t remotely ready for the start of the regular season.
Either the Flyers hurried MacDonald back out of concern the defense was thin without him, or he was rather convincing in relaying his pain threshold. A week before the season started, general manager Ron Hextall said he believed MacDonald was simply a fast healer, even though his speedy return felt more like a Mr. Miyagi type of recovery.
“I think in hindsight those couple of preseason games were a little premature,” MacDonald said. “I thought I could work back into it. I felt pretty good. It’s just the nature of the injury, I was able to skate a little bit sooner than you can do a lot of off-ice stuff. I wasn’t able to do much in the gym as far as getting that power and strength back. I thought I would be OK.”
As it turns out, MacDonald wasn’t and neither was the Flyers' defense.
Dave Hakstol needs a 95 to 100 percent version of MacDonald. Anything less, you run the risk of using an inefficient player. Through the Flyers' six games, MacDonald’s 5.06 goals against per 60 minutes played is a team worst by far. The next closest defenseman is Ivan Provorov (who hasn’t looked that good either) at 3.47 goals allowed per 60. That alone shows how much the Flyers' defense was suffering with MacDonald on the ice.
From the season opener in Vegas, MacDonald clearly wasn’t himself, falling to the ice without contact while struggling at times to keep up when opposing forwards brought speed into the Flyers' zone. Interestingly, coming off a 1-0 loss to the Golden Knights in which the Flyers played their best defensively structured game of the season, Hakstol felt a change was necessary.
“When you miss training camp, it’s tough, I’ll say that,” Hakstol said. “Any player that’s missed training camp I’m sure could tell you it’s hard to catch up in a hurry. For me, that’s a big part of it.”
This Sunday would have marked the end of the original six-week timetable, and even now, MacDonald admits he’s physically still not where he needs to be to perform at the highest level.
“I wouldn’t say I’m completely 100 percent, but I feel pretty good,” MacDonald said. “It’s a just matter of getting into that routine and that game shape type of thing.”
“It’s always a tough situation,” Hakstol said Tuesday. “There’s things in Mac’s game that he knows and we know that he can work at. He’s a huge part of our team and he’s going to be a big part of our lineup. Don’t make too much of it. It was the right thing for our team tonight.”
Turns out MacDonald was at the hospital during the Flyers' 6-5 win over the Panthers, as his wife gave birth to their baby daughter early Wednesday morning. MacDonald said mom and newborn are both doing well.
Now it’s dad who needs a complete recovery.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.