'Gus' aids Flyers' romp, makes statement to stay

  Defenseman Erik Gustafsson is playing like he deserves to remain with the Flyers _ even after Chris Pronger returns from an eye injury.

   In just his fifth NHL game of the season and eighth of his career, Gustafsson had an assist and was a staggering plus-6  as the Flyers rolled past Columbus, 9-2, at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.

    It was the highest “plus” ranking for a Flyers rookie since 1984, when Thomas Eriksson was plus-8.

    It was also Gustafsson’s first career point.

    “It's a great feeling, obviously, but the most important thing is for the team to win and it was a really great team effort, and I think everyone showed up today,” Gustafsson said.

     The Flyers (8-4-2) took just a 3-3-2 home record into the game.

      “We were real fired up and we wanted to have a good game in front of our fans,” said Gustafsson, 22.  “I think we’ve been playing a little bit, maybe, soft and not hard enough the last couple of games, and we wanted to come out strong and it carried over to the second.

    “Maybe we were a little lazy at the end, but it’s hard to go through all 60 minutes when it's 8-0.”

    With each game, Gustafsson _ who played a team-high 23:09 on Saturday _ seems to be getting more comfortable.

     “Absolutely. You come up here and you play with these big guys you've been watching on TV all of your life,” he said. “I think it's normal to get nervous, so the more you get to be around here and the more you play, the more comfortable you get. And I think, especially for the type of player I am, one who wants to make good passes, I need to be comfortable out there to make those passes and hold on to the puck for an extra second.

    “It helps to be here, even for the playoffs last year when I didn't play, it helped me to get more comfortable around the guys.”

    Don’t be surprised if Gustafsson stays in the defensive rotation when Pronger returns…and 36-year-old Andreas Lilja becomes the odd-man out. Lilja had four hits and was plus-1 on Saturday.

* * *

   Breakaways. The Flyers scored nine goals for the first time since a 1997 win over Montreal….Eight different Flyers scored, equaling a franchise record done four other times….The Flyers will not practice Sunday; they play Tampa Bay Wednesday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

 * * *

   Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.

Get exclusive videos and analysis in our new app for iPhone and Android. Download it here.