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Flyers' Gostisbehere absent from practice

Rookie defenseman not skating because of maintenance day

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere did not take part in their first practice Tuesday in preparation for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said the absence was a maintenance day.

Coach Dave Hakstol, asked if he were worried about Gostisbehere's availability for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-PH, CSN-DC), said."Not at all."

Gostisbehere played 21:26 and scored in the Flyers' regular-season-ending 5-2 victory against the New York Islanders on Sunday. Since being recalled from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League on Nov. 14, he has missed two games, Jan. 9 and 13, because of a lower-body injury.

Video: PHI@NYI: Gostisbehere buries wrister from the point

His play was a major reason the Flyers were able to reach the playoffs. Gostisbehere was fifth among rookies with 46 points in 64 games, and his 17 goals were the most by a rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf had 20 in 2005-06 for the Calgary Flames.

Gostisbehere set an NHL record for rookie defensemen with a 15-game point streak.

With Gostisbehere in the lineup, the Flyers went 34-19-11, averaged 2.73 goals per game and scored on 20.5 percent of their power plays. Without him, they were 7-8-3, averaged 2.00 goals per game and had a 12.5 percent power-play efficiency.

The power play could be the turning point of the series against the Capitals, who had the League's fifth-best power play at 21.9 percent; the Flyers were 11th at 18.9 percent. But since Jan. 1, the Flyers are sixth in the League at 20.7 percent and the Capitals are 12th at 19.3 percent.

Much of that improvement by the Flyers can be attributed to Gostisbehere, who tied for the rookie lead with eight power-play goals and was second with 22 power-play points.

"Teams started to see what [Gostisbehere] could do and they started to key on him," Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds said. "That's what opened up other things. He allowed us to have great power-play success once he jumped up on top. He added that extra threat.

"It's just how well he moves up top. He gets left, he gets right. It's really tough for the [penalty killers] ... to try to stop him from getting the puck to the net."

The threat of Gostisbehere shooting from the point opened room for other players to succeed. Simmonds (13) and Brayden Schenn (11) ranked in the top 15 in the League in power-play goals, and Claude Giroux tied for seventh in the League with 27 power-play points.

Video: WPG@PHI: Gostisbehere steals, Giroux nets OT winner

Jakub Voracek, who works the right side of the ice from the point to the bottom of the circle on the top unit, is working his way back after a nine-game absence because of a lower-body injury sustained Feb. 25. He had two points in his first seven games back but closed the regular season with one goal and four assists in his final six games. That closing stretch has him feeling good about his game.

"The hands [being rusty] was in the beginning when I got back," Voracek said. "Now it's the playoff time. There is no reason for me not to make a difference in the first round."

Having a healthy Gostisbehere also would make a difference for the Flyers.

"Teams key on him," Simmonds said. "But when you key in on one player you open something else up. ... If they're going to try to clamp down on him, you got [Giroux] on the half wall, you got Jake on the other half wall, you got [Schenn] in the middle and me down low. We like to think we have more than one option. If they try to take one away we can use the other ones."

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