The Flyers are seeing why depth is considered gold in the NHL.
After losing veteran defenseman Justin Braun (groin) until after the Jan. 24-26 All-Star break, the Flyers were without Shayne Gostisbehere Wednesday night against the Capitals.
According to head coach Alain Vigneault, Gostisbehere "tweaked his knee" near the end of regulation during the Flyers' 5-4 overtime loss Tuesday to the Hurricanes. The 26-year-old defenseman underwent an MRI this morning and will be evaluated by team doctors tonight before the Flyers know more about his status moving forward.
Mark Friedman was called up from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and played his second career NHL game Wednesday night. The Flyers currently have only six healthy defensemen and are lacking some experience along the blue line. After 32-year-old Matt Niskanen, the Flyers' oldest defensemen are Friedman and Robert Hagg, both 24 years old.
Including Wednesday night's contest, Niskanen has played 924 career games, while the other five healthy blueliners have combined to play 692 games — Ivan Provorov at 290, Hagg 178, Travis Sanheim 175, Philippe Myers 47 and Friedman two.
The Flyers will cross their fingers that Gostisbehere's injury isn't serious. Since his three-game benching in November, Gostisbehere has played better with four goals, six points, 33 shots and a plus-3 rating in 18 games. While Gostisbehere's offensive production is down (12 points in 40 games), his mobility and skill help the Flyers transition the puck and play in the offensive zone.
"He was way more confident with the puck, he was doing what you want a defenseman of his type to do, which is beat the forecheck, jump up in the play when the opportunity is there," Vigneault said before Wednesday night's game at the Wells Fargo Center. "He was playing good hockey for us. I don't know exactly how long this is going to be but he's not playing tonight."
While Gostisbehere is out, Sanheim will jump onto the power play and Myers' puck-moving responsibilities should also expand.
The Flyers aren't deep defensively with the Phantoms. Depending on how healthy the Flyers are along the blue line and where they sit in the standings, general manager Chuck Fletcher will have decisions to ponder ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Following a 1-4-1 road trip, the Flyers entered Wednesday holding the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot via tiebreaker.
For now, the Flyers will turn to Friedman, a 2014 third-round pick that plays with pace and an edge.
"He's been playing well, he's been [Lehigh Valley's] best defenseman," Vigneault said.
"He's what I remember from him in camp, he's good with his gap and confident with the puck. He can make plays."
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