When the Flyers play the surprising New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night in Newark, there’s a good chance defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere will be in the lineup after missing the first six games because he contracted the coronavirus.
Gostisbehere practiced with the team Monday in Voorhees for the first time since he recovered from the virus.
“I feel really good, actually,” Gostisbehere said after practice. “I’m very thankful it didn’t hit me too hard. … I’m more happy it didn’t affect other people and it was just myself.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said that player known as Ghost has no remaining effects from COVID-19 and that it was just a matter of him getting his conditioning and timing back.
Gostisbehere skated three times last week and said that “hopefully I can be good to go” on Tuesday.
At practice, Gostisbehere was on the top pairing, alongside Ivan Provorov. He was also on the second power-play unit.
“I think him coming back will be big,” said goalie Brian Elliott, who will get the start Tuesday against the 3-1-1 Devils. “He brings experience on the back end and his presence on the power play, too. It’ll be good to have him back there.”
Gostisbehere, 27, said the mental aspect of his COVID-19 battle was more difficult than anything else.
“Thankfully I’ve got a great fiancée to take care of me and didn’t have to go through quarantine alone,” he said. “The mental part of that quarantine was more hard than the physical part for me. Thankfully my symptoms didn’t hit me too hard. But to deal with it mentally for two weeks and you’re stuck in your house [is tough].”
On Tuesday, the Flyers (3-2-1) will try to regroup after being swept by the host Bruins in two games, 5-4 in a shootout and 6-1.
Assuming Gostisbehere is ready and is partnered with Provorov, the other pairings Tuesday will have Travis Sanheim with Mark Friedman and Robert Hagg with Justin Braun, based on Monday’s practice.
In that scenario, Erik Gustafsson, who has struggled in the early going, would be benched.
Coach Alain Vigneault said Gustafsson, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, has “not quite found his game yet” and that “coming into a new environment, players need a little bit of time to adjust. Defensively, I don’t expect him to be over-physical, but I do expect him to have a good stick and stop plays when the opportunity is there. He’s aware of it; he believes he can play much better than he has so far.”
Gostisbehere, coming off a disappointing season that was plagued by knee injuries, had a solid training camp before his COVID-19 diagnosis.
“The last couple years I’ve dealt with some adversity off the ice with injuries and other crap,” said Gostisbehere, now in his sixth season with the Flyers. “I think for myself, [this] was a little more salt in the wound. I was dealing with a little more than the hockey aspect. During the time I was quarantining and watching your team play, seeing them win, seeing them lose, it [stinks]. You want to be out there. I had a good camp and knew I was going to get a great opportunity. Hopefully I can get to where I was and get back in the swing of things.”