Flyers' Shayne Gostisbehere 'extremely saddened' by shootings at his former high school

Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.

Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere had a heavy heart when discussing the shooting Wednesday in which 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The story hit home for Gostisbehere, who attended the high school in his freshman and sophomore years.

“It definitely [stinks]  to see and turn on the news and it’s the high school you went to,” Gostisbehere said Thursday after practice at the Skate Zone. “Obviously, it is a tragic event and those things keep happening and it [stinks].”

After two years at the school, Gostisbehere attended South Kent School in Connecticut, from which he graduated. He said he lived 10 minutes from the Florida high school and his grandparents live about a mile away.

“They always say it’s close to home, but when it is actually home, it is pretty tough to see,” Gostisbehere said. “I haven’t really processed it yet. I still can’t believe it.”

He  briefly recalled his time there.

“I was only there for two years and I felt safe in that school every day I was there,” he said. “To see something like that happens, those kids and teachers, it [stinks].”

Just last year, the National Council for Home Safety and Security placed Parkland at the top of its 2017 list of Florida’s safest cities, something Gostisbehere alluded to.

“It’s a tough time and [Parkland] was just voted the safest city in Florida last year, and to see a tragic event like that, obviously it is a shocker now,” he said.

On Thursday morning,  Nikolas Cruz, 19, was charged with 17 counts of  murder after being questioned for hours by state and federal authorities, according to the Associated Press.

Gostisbehere had special praise for assistant football coach Aaron Feis, who was among the dead. Also a security guard, he threw himself in front of students as bullets flew, according to published reports.

“I knew of him and he was a great guy, always nice to me when I was there, and it obviously shows his character what he did in that time of panic and emergency, putting himself on the line for others,” Gostisbehere said. “Obviously, he is a true hero, a guy we obviously need to focus on, rather than the suspect.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said he found out early Thursday that Gostisbehere attended the school where the shooting took place. Asked for comment, Hakstol measured his words.

“What is there to add; it is an absolutely awful thing,” Hakstol said. “The amount of times it has been repeated and the number of people that have been affected, you feel really terrible for the families and everyone involved. Nothing I can say … is going to do it justice in any way.”

Neuvirth won’t change approach with added workload

Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth was relaxing on his couch Wednesday, watching hockey, and he couldn’t help but notice how many shots he was seeing from his next opponent.

Neuvirth was watching the Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets, 6-3. The Flyers visit Columbus on Friday.

“They were putting a lot of pucks on net and had over 50 shots,” Neuvirth  Thursday at the Skate Zone.

It was 57 shots, with Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen making 54 saves. Entering Thursday, Columbus had 62 points, one shy of the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot, while the Flyers have 66 points.

For the Flyers to maintain their playoff position or improve it, Neuvirth will be the key since fellow goalie Brian Elliott is expected to miss five to six weeks after surgery for a core muscle injury.

Unless the Flyers acquire a goalie by the Feb. 26 trade deadline, Neuvirth, who only twice in his NHL career has appeared in as many as 38 games, will be relied on heavily.

Neuvirth and the Flyers are coming off a 5-4 shootout loss Tuesday to the visiting New Jersey Devils.

“I feel pretty good and had a good practice today,” Neuvirth said.

He said his approach hasn’t changed now that he is the starter and, barring a trade, will be expected to carry a heavy load down the stretch.

“Same thing,” Neuvirth said. “I work hard every day and try to prepare the best I can.”