SAN JOSE, Calif. — Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere had no limitations in practice Tuesday and said he was ready to play in Wednesday’s season opener in San Jose.
Gostisbehere collided with two Islanders in Sunday’s exhibition game and suffered an unspecified injury.
General manager Ron Hextall said he would see how Gostisbehere felt Wednesday before deciding whether he plays against the Sharks.
But Gostisbehere, coming off a disappointing season in which he managed seven goals, made it clear he wants to be in the lineup.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’m so excited. We’ve all been waiting, and we’ve got the young blood in the lineup, too. I think the boys are going to be ready.”
On Tuesday, Gostisbehere was on the right side and was paired with Samuel Morin.
“Big Sammy is a menace down low,” Gostisbehere said. “He tells me, ‘I’m going to win every battle I have’ and the puck just slips to me.”
Gostisbehere called Morin “a nice calming effect back there.”
Gostisbehere said Robert Hagg, who was his partner in the Islanders game, “is the same way. Obviously, he’s not as big as Sammy, but he wins his battles. He’s a great defensive player, but he’s got some offensive instincts as well. I think they’re both great players and I’m happy to play with both of them.”
The other pairings Tuesday: Ivan Provorv and Andrew MacDonald; Radko Gudas and Travis Sanheim; and Hagg and Brandon Manning.
Only six of the eight D-men will dress Wednesday.
“It’s a tough decision; we had eight pretty good defensemen out there today in practice,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have tough decisions there, and that’s a real positive. It’s also going to be a challenge.”
Because of Gostisbehere’s health issue, Hextall decided to bring eight defensemen on the season-opening, four-game road trip. Veteran winger Matt Read cleared waivers Tuesday and was sent to the AHL’s Phantoms, leaving the Flyers with a roster-compliant 23 players.
There is a chance one of the rookie defensemen, most likely Sanheim, will be sent to the Phantoms when the Flyers return home and that Read will be recalled as an extra player.
Hextall said he wants to carry only seven defensemen unless there’s an injury situation, and he doesn’t want a young player sitting as an extra player.
After playing in San Jose, the Flyers have road games in Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Nashville.
Hextall thinks the lines are more balanced this season and it will help the Flyers get better matchups on the road, where they went just 14-22-5 last season.
“I think our depth right now is better than we’ve had in the past, so in terms of matchups, I think we’re certainly better off,” he said. “… I feel good about our team right now, but we have to make it happen.”
The Flyers, who began last season with a 4-2 win in Los Angeles, are 22-19-8 in openers in franchise history, and they are 21-16-12 in road opening games.
On this trip, the Flyers will be the home opener for San Jose, Los Angeles, and Nashville.
“I haven’t sent a thank-you card yet to the NHL schedule maker,” Hakstol cracked, adding that “we have to be ready and accept the challenge.”
The Flyers will start the season with about $2.4 million in cap space. “We’re in a good spot,” Hextall said. “It’s more than we’ve had in a few years.” … By virtue of a players vote, Valttteri Filppula (home games) and Andrew MacDonald (away games) will share the ‘A’ that was vacated when alternate captain Pierre-Edouard Bellemare went to Vegas in the expansion draft. … The team’s five rookies were given new numbers: Morin is wearing 5, Sanheim is 6, Hagg is 8, Nolan Patrick is 19, and Taylor Leier is 20. … Hakstol on Claude Giroux starting the season at left wing: “Our captain has been all-in in making the move from center to left wing. Not only has he been agreeable to do it, but he’s gone the extra mile in terms of jumping in with both feet and figuring out how he can be the very best at it. He’s really shown what kind of selfless leader he is.”