Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is expected to be cleared to play Thursday and could return to the lineup for the game against visiting New Jersey.
The operative word is could.
Earlier in the week, coach Alain Vigneault said Gostisbehere would play Thursday. But he hedged Wednesday when asked if Gostisbehere would face the Devils.
“The team is playing fairly well and we have a decision to make there,” he said after practice in Voorhees. “I haven’t sat down with the coaches yet to hash that through because I’ve been waiting for the medical staff to definitely clear Shayne.”
The Flyers have gone 7-2-1 in the 10 games Gostisbehere has missed because he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. That gives Vigneault a reason to pause before pulling a defenseman like Robert Hagg or Phil Myers out of the lineup and replacing one of them with Gostisbehere.
Hagg has supplied physical play and has a goal, four assists, and a plus-5 rating in those 10 games, while Myers has two assists and an “even” rating in that span. Hagg has been paired with Justin Braun, and Myers has been alongside Travis Sanheim.
Gostisbehere, 26, said he has no limitations and his knee is 100 percent.
Defenseman Ivan Provorov and center Claude Giroux will play in their 300th straight games Thursday. Provorov has never missed a game in his four-year career.
According to the NHL, only one defenseman in league history, Dan Girardi, has started his career by playing in more consecutive games (330 with the Rangers) with one team.
“He wants to play through stuff, wants to play through pain, and you know he’s going to go out there and get the job done for you,” Vigneault said. “I’m a lucky coach to have come in here and found this young man that is slowly but surely coming into his prime.”
Center Nolan Patrick, who has been sidelined all season because of a migraine disorder, rejoined the team at practice Wednesday.
But the good news was tempered after practice when Vigneault said Patrick was only with the team because it was a “skills day” and no hitting was involved.
Still, the players were upbeat to have Patrick join them.
“He’s a big part of our team, and when he comes back it’s going to be huge,” right winger Jake Voracek said.
“It was good to have him out there with the boys, and I think it’s a little step for him,” left winger Scott Laughton said. “For him to be out there skating with us, he has to be feeling a little better.”
Vigneault said he didn’t know whether Patrick, 21, had been cleared to have contact. The Flyers did not make Patrick available to talk to the media.