Following a much-needed off-day to regroup after an ugly 6-1 loss in Boston on Saturday, the Flyers returned to the Skate Zone in Voorhees on Monday morning to prepare for the first game of a back-to-back road set with the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday and Thursday. The team will not have a morning skate on Tuesday, and will bus from Voorhees to Newark during the day.
The big story from Monday's practice was the return of Shayne Gostisbehere for his first practice with the team since being placed on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol list on January 9. The player, who skated three times on his own last week including a pair of intensive skates, will see how he feels on Tuesday but expected to be able to play.
"I feel really good," Gostisbehere said after practice. "I am thankful (COVID-19) didn't hit me too hard and it didn't affect other people."
As long as Gostisbehere doesn't have any setbacks, he appears poised to enter the Flyers' starting lineup for the first time this season. If "Ghost" is a go, struggling defenseman Erik Gustafsson appears to be the most likely defenseman to be a healthy scratch on Tuesday based on the practice combinations featured on Monday and the post-practice comments of Flyers' head coach Alain Vigneault.
"It's a new environment and new group of players for Erik. He hasn't found his game yet," Vigneault said. "I don't expect him to be physical but I expect him to move the puck, have a good stick and stop plays."
Other significant news from Monday's practice sessions:
Maintenance Day for Patrick
After an excellent training camp and a quick start to the abbreviated regular season. Flyers center Nolan Patrick has been less effective over the last few games. Patrick took a maintenance day on Monday but skated with Flyers skills coach Angelo Ricci. Vigneault said that Patrick was dealing with a minor physical issue but is fine to play on Tuesday.
At Monday's practice, taxi squad center Andy Andreoff stood in for Patrick in both 5-on-5 and power play drills. Barring any setbacks, below is Tuesday's apparent starting lineup.
25 James van Riemsdyk - 13 Kevin Hayes - 93 Jakub Voracek
28 Claude Giroux - 19 Nolan Patrick - 11 Travis Konecny
23 Oskar Lindblom - 21 Scott Laughton - 86 Joel Farabee
12 Michael Raffl - 82 Connor Bunnaman - 62 Nicolas Aube-Kubel
9 Ivan Provorov - 53 Shayne Gostisbehere
6 Travis Sanheim - 3 Mark Friedman
8 Robert Hägg - 61 Justin Braun
37 Brian Elliott
[79 Carter Hart]
PP1: Giroux, Hayes, Voracek, JVR, Provorov
PP2: Lindblom,Patrick, Konecny, Sanheim, Gostisbehere
Elliott Gets the Start on Tuesday
Brian Elliott recorded a 40-save shutout against the Buffalo Sabres in his first start of the 2020-21 season. On the heels of a rough third period (following two shutout periods) on Thursday and a frustrating night on Saturday (six goals against on 26 shots), Carter Hart will get a night off.
"I'm sure he's seen me hit my stick on the post a time or two," Elliott said of Hart, "It's something you go through. There's going to be rough patches in any career. You have to go through the ups and downs. Managing it well. Managing it poorly. He came out and said that's not how he wants to portray himself professionally. But it's something.... you just have to go through it. Everybody's been through it, no matter what goalie in this league in history. The guys know that his heart's in the right place and he wants to do the best job possible. I think that [frustration] just poured over to the end of the game. It's just getting back to work, trying to just to be a sounding board. Kind of just trying to laugh it off. Guys are joking about him, seeing how many sticks he's got left on the stick rack and stuff like that. I think that helps, just kind of taking that pressure off, starting a new page. Turn the page and think positive for the next one."
Couturier Skates with Skills Group
Recovering from a rib injury suffered in the first period of the Flyers' second game of the regular season, Selke Trophy center Sean Couturier skated along with Patrick and defenseman Phil Myers (rib fracture) in a session run on Monday by Flyers' skills coach Angelo Ricci. Although the top-line center's return to game action is not imminent, he reports making progress. Being able to skate again was a step forward in his recovery.
"The first few days were pretty painful. Sleeping was tough. I am feeling better now," Couturier said. "I need to be careful not to push it too much. It's not 100% better but O can skate and get my cardio back."
Giroux to Set Flyers Captaincy Tenure Record
When he steps on the ice for his first shift of Tuesday's game, Claude Giroux will officially have played in his 611th game as Flyers' captain, surpassing the combined two captaincy tenures of Hockey Hall of Famer and Flyers franchise icon Bobby Clarke. Although Giroux typically downplays his climb up to the team's all-time record boards as something he'll likely think more about someday when his career is over. he admitted on Tuesday that setting this record has immediate personal meaning for him.
"It's very special. Clarkie was probably the greatest player the Flyers have had and he was good to me early in my career," Giroux said.
Video: Couturier speaks to media
Video: Elliott speaks to media
Video: Giroux speaks to media
Video: Vigneault speaks to media