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Flyers' Gostisbehere returns to practice

Had maintenance day Tuesday, set for Game 1 against Capitals on Thursday

NHL.com @NHL

Philadelphia Flyers rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere practiced Wednesday after having a maintenance day Tuesday.

Gostisbehere played in 64 regular-season games, the most he has played at any level since he was in high school, and coach Dave Hakstol said he needed a day off.

"I wanted to practice yesterday, but rest is important right now," Gostisbehere told the Bucks County Courier Times. "Personally, I believe rest equals rust, but you have to listen to your coach sometimes."

Gostisbehere, who was fifth among rookies with 46 points, will be a key part of Philadelphia's game plan when their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Washington Capitals begins with Game 1 at Verizon Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-DC, CSN-PH).

His impact was felt most on the power play; the Flyers had a 20.5 percent efficiency on the power play with Gostisbehere in the lineup, and 12.5 percent in 18 games without him. But it's the Capitals power play the Flyers are concerned about.

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"They have guys that if you give them room, they'll make plays and find ways to put the puck in the net," captain Claude Giroux told the Flyers website. "It's going to be important for us to stay out of the box."

The Flyers were 20th in the League in penalty killing (80.3 percent), but allowed the opposition two power plays or fewer 11 times in their final 23 games; they went 15-5-3 in that span.

Staying disciplined is key against a Capitals power play led by Alex Ovechkin, who scored one of his League-leading 17 power-play goals in four games against the Flyers. But it also features Nicklas Backstrom, second in the League with 30 power-play points, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie. The Capitals had the League's fifth-best power play at 21.9 percent.

"Their power play is one of the top power plays in the League," Flyers goaltender Steve Mason said. "That's something as the penalty killers we have to take pride in, because that's going to be a big part of the series."

The Flyers also want to play physical against the Capitals' talented forwards. Finding that balance could be a determining factor in the series.

"We have to make sure we're initiating, not retaliating, because they usually take the team that retaliates to the box," Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said. "If we're the ones that start the hitting and finishing, and playing whistle to whistle, we should be fine."

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