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Flyers' Gustafsson could add speed element to lineup

by Adam Kimelman

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Berube wasn't ready to disclose his lineup for Game 6 of his team's Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Rangers on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS, MSG, CSN-PH).

But with his team looking to upgrade its speed, one option could be inserting defenseman Erik Gustafsson.

The 25-year-old had two goals and eight assists in 31 regular-season games, but has played four games in April and has been a healthy scratch through the first five games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"He can get up the ice," coach Craig Berube said of Gustafsson. "We have guys that can do that; we just haven't done it enough."

Gustafsson would give the Flyers another player with a bit of an offensive bent to his game, as well as someone with a younger set of legs; he and Luke Schenn (24) are the only Philadelphia defensemen younger than 27. In Game 5 they had three defensemen 36 or older, including 39-year-old Hal Gill, who was used as an injury replacement for Nicklas Grossmann.

If Gustafsson were to play it likely would be in place of Gill.

Jumping into a playoff series midstream isn't easy, but it's something Gustafsson does have some experience with. His first Stanley Cup Playoff game was Game 5 of the 2011 playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also played in the series-clinching win in Game 6, when he scored his first playoff goal.

"If I get in [Tuesday], it'll be pretty much the same that happened against Pittsburgh two years ago," Gustafsson said after being one of 14 players to take part in an optional practice Monday. "I'll know what to expect and not be as nervous as I was back then. I'm pretty confident that I'll be ready to go."

Gustafsson said he's watched closely the first five games of the series and thinks he can help just by playing to his strengths.

"I think I'm going to come in and play my game," he said. "Just by doing that I think I can contribute. I think I can help the team get up the ice, get more shots on net, get some more opportunities on [Rangers goalie Henrik] Lundqvist. Just doing that, playing my game, it'll be enough."


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