It was a seemingly routine practice for the Flyers on Friday that ended with a bizarre twist.
Shayne Gostisbehere, who played Thursday night for the first time in 10 games, appeared to flub a shot at the blue line during a drill late in the session and then violently flung his stick over the boards in frustration.
It was unclear immediately if he had suffered a recurrence of his recent knee injury, but there was no mistaking his anger. Gostisbehere stormed off the ice — it didn’t look like he was limping — but was not available to reporters after practice.
He was with the team for the train ride to Washington. The Flyers will play the division-leading Capitals at 7 p.m. Saturday.
It’s been a frustrating season for Gostisbehere, who had arthroscopic knee surgery last month. He has missed 13 games this season and has just five goals. Earlier this week, he said the procedure “was something I had to get done. I couldn’t put it off anymore.”
Practice began with Robert Hagg alongside Justin Braun, a spot that Gostisbehere was in Thursday. Vigneault said afterward he hadn’t made up his mind whether there would be any lineup changes after a dismal loss to New Jersey on Thursday.
The coach lamented that perhaps Gostisbehere could have used some rehab games in the AHL.
“When you look at it, serious injury, three weeks to a month, and we gave him two 25-minute practices — little unfair,” said Vigneault, who had left the ice before the stick fling.
"Maybe we should have considered sending him to Lehigh Valley for a couple of days and a couple of games because that is a fairly significant injury. It just didn’t work out that way, so we’ve got to work him back into conditioning and execution. Hopefully, he’ll be back to normal quicker than later.”
Gostisbehere has three years remaining on his contract after this season and would be an attractive trade chip ahead of the Feb. 24 deadline. But he’s also just 26.
The Flyers really could use a veteran center. Connor Bunnaman and Andy Andreoff were in the middle of the bottom two lines Friday. A couple of hours after practice, Andreoff, a winger, was sent to the Phantoms.
Claude Giroux, who can play center, was moved back to the wing, where he is more comfortable. The Flyers captain has gone a career-long 13 games without a goal. He was on a line Friday with Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek.
“Obviously, we’re not happy with our last game,” Giroux said, referring to the 5-0 loss to the Devils. “I think we were playing pretty good before that. It’s not time to hit the panic button, but efforts like [Thursday night] can’t happen often.”
Moving Andreoff allowed the Flyers to call up Morgan Frost from the AHL. Frost, who was sent down after a rough game in San Jose on Dec. 28, has eight goals and 12 assists in 30 games for the Phantoms. If Friday’s practice is any indicator, he will center a line with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Pitlick.
Frost, the 27th overall pick in 2017, was the lone Phantoms representative at the AHL All-Star Game. He scored goals in his first two NHL games in mid-November, then went the next 16 games with only four assists before being sent back down to the minors.
Brian Elliott will start in net against the Capitals, and Alex Lyon will be the backup. Carter Hart is “getting close” to returning, he said. The Flyers started a run Thursday of six games in 10 days, including back-to-back Monday (against Florida) and Tuesday (at the Islanders). They’re going to need two goalies. ... Center Nolan Patrick, who hasn’t played this season because of a migraine disorder, skated with the team at the beginning of practice, and was even used as an extra defenseman in a few drills. ... Joel Farabee will miss his second straight game because of the flu.