VOORHEES, N.J. — Shayne Gostisbehere whipped his stick so far, it cleared the glass and hit the wall behind the bench at Flyers Skate Zone.
Shortly after Friday's practice finished, Gostisbehere abruptly ended his extra work and stormed off the ice to the dressing room. He didn't appear to be laboring, nor did he need assistance.
Could he have aggravated his left knee injury, which required arthroscopic surgery Jan. 14? Gostisbehere was not available to the media afterward. Head coach Alain Vigneault had already left the ice when Gostisbehere flung his stick. About 25 minutes after the defenseman's toss and departure, Vigneault was not aware of any injury.
"No, not to my knowledge," Vigneault said.
Gostisbehere very well could have just been frustrated after attempting a shot. Following a 10-game absence, he returned to the lineup Thursday night in the Flyers' 5-0 clunker to the Devils. He showed obvious rust and the entire team played poorly.
At some point before or during practice, Vigneault talked with Gostisbehere to maintain his spirit. The head coach felt the circumstances of Gostisbehere's return were a bit unjust.
“I just wanted to get a feel," Vigneault said Friday. "It’s not fair considering what he had to go through as far as the injury, the operation and then two practices, but it is what it is.
“It’s all about a serious injury, little time as far as getting a player back into game condition. Just wanted to have a little chat with him so that he stayed upbeat and continues to work real hard. When you look at it, serious injury, three weeks to a month, and we gave him two 25-minute practices — little unfair. 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.
"It just didn’t work out that way, so we’ve got to work him back into conditioning and execution. Hopefully he’ll be back to normal quicker than later.”
During practice, Gostisbehere took some power play reps but appeared to be an extra in line rushes. Vigneault said he had not made lineup decisions yet for Saturday night's game against the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals at Capital One Arena (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP). He was planning to talk with general manager Chuck Fletcher before configuring the lineup.
"We still have got some moving parts right now, I need to talk to Chuck," Vigneault said. "Chuck left this morning early for a scouting trip, I haven’t had a chance to talk to him on the phone. I’m going to talk to him and make some decisions."
Is there a better way for Gostisbehere to shake off rust and work into game shape than actually playing games? That will be the balance moving forward for the Flyers, who have 28 games remaining in a crowded playoff race (see standings).
"That’s the situation we’re in," Vigneault said. "We’ve got to find a way to get him back up to speed to where he was before.”
Gostisbehere has endured a difficult 2019-20 season. On top of the injury that lingered and eventually needed surgery, he was a healthy scratch for three games in November and his offensive production has not been where it has in the past. The 26-year-old has five goals and seven assists in 41 games. He is projected to finish with a career-low 20 points over 69 games.
That doesn't mean he's not an important player for the Flyers as this month continues and the Feb. 24 trade deadline nears.
The Flyers know a healthy Gostisbehere is much better than a frustrated one.
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