THOUGH DAVE Hakstol wouldn't confirm specifics on exactly who will be in Tuesday's lineup, observing practice provided all the necessary confirmation that need not be released from the lips of the reticent first-year NHL coach.
When the Flyers finally return to the ice following a five-day break from game action, a fully healthy R.J. Umberger appears destined to be a healthy scratch against Dallas.
Umberger missed time last week with an undisclosed upper-body injury and returned to the ice Friday, participating in about half of the day's practice. The Flyers were off Saturday, and Umberger returned as a full participant Sunday and Monday.
He played well in the Flyers' first game of the season with linemates Scott Laughton and Matt Read, picking up two assists in the game against Tampa Bay. The trio also played well on the forecheck in the Oct. 10 blowout loss in Florida.
But when the Flyers took the bulk of their line rushes in Monday's practice, Umberger was the odd man out for much of practice, alongside Vincent Lecavalier. The two combine for a $9.1 million hit against the Flyers' salary cap. When practice finished up, Umberger remained on the ice with Lecavalier and Luke Schenn - two players who have been healthy scratches - for some extra skating.
Sam Gagner, who was a healthy scratch to start the season, skated with Scott Laughton and Brayden Schenn at Monday's practice, with Umberger rotating in only occasionally. Gagner scored a power-play goal in Wednesday's win over Chicago and was impressive - tallying an assist - in last Monday's 1-0 win against Florida.
In practice, Gagner - a righthanded shot - largely played on the left side, with Schenn skating on the right and Laughton down the middle. He played all three forward positions in the preseason, as the Flyers have an abundance of players who are natural to the center position. He's adapted his game, though.
"I just want to contribute in wins," Gagner said after Wednesday's game.
He wasn't likely to be a candidate to sit if Hakstol was going to get Umberger back in the lineup, given how he played in the two games last week and his usage on the second power-play unit.
"I think he's played hard," Hakstol said of Gagner. "He's created offense on most nights when he's been in. He's done a good job on the power play, running that unit off of the half wall. I think he continues to work on his complete game in all three zones. Those are things we'll continue asking him and other guys to do."
On Tuesday, at least, one of those other guys won't be Umberger, who was coming off an injury-riddled 2014-15 season in which he missed the final month of the season after undergoing abdominal surgery. He raved all training camp about the great shape he was in and how much better he was moving on the ice, compared with last season, his first in orange and black since 2007-08. after the Flyers reacquired him from Columbus in an unpopular trade with the fan base that sent Scott Hartnell to Ohio.
The results of Umberger's offseason work showed early on. He looked remarkably faster in camp and had some jump in his regular-season games.
"It's a little frustrating," Umberger said Sunday. "I spent most of my career not missing any games. It's always tough to be injured and not be able to help your teammates, especially this early in the season. It's kind of a freak thing for me. Hopefully, it's one of the things you put past you and go back to what you were doing before."
For now, it seems, he'll wait for that chance.
"We continue to have some pretty good internal competition," Hakstol said. "I think R.J. has gone through two days fully healthy now and feeling good. So you'll see him back in the lineup soon."
How soon, though, remains to be seen.
Coach Dave Hakstol was also noncommittal on whether Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth would start in goal Tuesday. With back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday, the Flyers will likely split their goalies between the contests . . . The Flyers-Stars broadcast Tuesday will be shown on Comcast SportsNet, with NBC Sports blacked out locally . . . Wednesday's game in Boston (8 p.m.) is an exclusive broadcast on the NBC Sports Network as part of its "Rivalry Night" series.