Flyers' Gustafsson in; Giroux honored

ST. LOUIS _ Defenseman Erik Gustafsson had been alternating with the since-traded Andrej Meszaros, but ever since the Flyers acquired Andrew MacDonald from the Islanders, he has been a forgotten player.

Until Tuesday.
Gustafsson, a healthy scratch for the last 14 games, will return to the lineup against St. Louis Tuesday because of an undisclosed facial injury to veteran Kimmo Timonen.

“You don’t want to be on the side; it’s not easy, especially mentally, to stay ready,” Gustafsson said after Tuesday’s morning skate in St. Louis.”But it’s part of the business we're in and I’m happy to get the chance tonight and we’ll see where we go from there.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun tonight.”

Coach Craig Berube said he wants Gustafsson _ who is plus-9 and has 10 points in 27 games _ “to be a good defender and move the puck. Gus does that….Our D’s been pretty healthy and a lot of times he was just the odd man out.”

“Gus is a really good player; he’s one of my favorite players, to be honest,” star center Claude Giroux said with a smile. “He’s small, but he’s a hard-nosed player and he’s really smart out there. He reads the plays pretty good.”

   With Timonen sidelined _ he is expected to return Thursday _ the Flyers will alter all three defensive pairings Tuesday. The pairings: Gustafsson and Luke Schenn; Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossmann; and Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald.

All three duos have been together at some point this season, which should make them comfortable with each other, Berube said.

Berube said Timonen, 39, “probably could have came and played, but I think it’s important that he’s rested and feeling good” for the home stretch.

Giroux honored. Flyers center Claude Giroux was named the NHL’s third star of the month. Boston right winger Jarome Iginla, who had a league-high 13 goals in March, and Detroit Red Wings right winger Gustav Nyquist (12 goals in March) were named the first and second stars, respectively.

Giroux led all players with 15 assists and 21 points, helping the Flyers compile a 9-3-2 March record.

“His work ethic is really high and that’s what makes it all go for him _ his hard work and competitiveness, along with his skill,” Berube said. “He doesn’t try to play a skill game….as much as he WORKS. When you have a skill guy that works like that, they’re dangerous players.”

Breakaways. Ray Emery 8-10-1, 2.96 GAA, .901 save percentage will face Ryan Miller on Tuesday. Since being acquired from Buffalo, Miller is 9-3-1 with a 2.18 GAA and .912 save percentage. Steve Mason will be back in the nets Thursday in a key game against his former team, Columbus. “Mase has played a lot of games, and Ray has played well,” Berube said…..The Flyers missed out on highly touted University of Massachusetts-Lowell defenseman Christian Folin, who signed with the Minnesota Wild. The Flyers were one of the finalists for the free agent.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.