Radko Gudas may return to Flyers lineup Thursday

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Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas.

Based on Tuesday’s longer-than-usual practice in Voorhees, there’s a good chance Radko Gudas, a player called the “heart and soul” of the Flyers’ defense, will return to the lineup Thursday against visiting Chicago.

Gudas, the Flyers’ most physical defenseman, said he still has to be cleared by a doctor to play Thursday, but he was able to absorb contact during Tuesday’s practice. If Gudas can play, Mark Alt will be the extra defenseman. Alt has done a commendable job in the two games he has played.

“I feel pretty good,” Gudas said.

Gudas, 27, was injured in the first period of the Flyers’ 3-0 loss in Chicago last Wednesday, taking an elbow to the head from Brandon Saad, who was not penalized. The Czech Republic native has missed the last two games — a 2-0 win in St. Louis, and a 5-4 shootout loss to Colorado.

“I hate watching,” Gudas said. “That’s the toughest for me, not being able to jump in there. Anything I can do to make it faster, I’m trying to do as much as I can.”

A year ago, Gudas led the Flyers and was fourth in the NHL with 280 hits.

“He’s a big, physical presence back there,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said.”Gudie is the heart and soul of our D corps. He plays the game in a hard, physical way, and I think we miss that a little bit. I don’t think too many guys want to dump the puck in his corner, and he’s a good presence on the penalty kill as well.

“If we get him back, it’ll be a big boost for our team,” he added.

Goalie Michal Neuvirth agreed — and not just because he is engaged to Gudas’ sister.

“He wins battles in front of the net … and he’s a shutdown [defenseman],” Neuvirth said. “He’s a unique player and we need him. He’s strong, he has a good shot, and he’s our most experienced” defenseman because Andrew MacDonald is injured.

The Flyers have had three players miss time with head injuries: Gudas, Nolan Patrick and Gostisbehere, who returned to the lineup Saturday. Jordan Weal also suffered an undisclosed injury earlier in the season that might have been head-related.

“I think it’s very unlucky,” said Gudas, who leads the Flyers with 40 penalty minutes. “Hopefully we get it out of the way early in the season and it’s not something that’s going to bite us later in the season.”

Patrick skated before practice Tuesday and is listed as day to day. The rookie center has missed the last six games with an apparent concussion. The Flyers are 2-2-2 in that span.

Breakaways

Former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil gave a motivational talk to the Flyers after practice. Vermeil was invited at the request of captain Claude Giroux. … Goalie Brian Elliott (3.11 goals-against average, .892 save percentage) is expected to get Thursday’s start. … Entering Tuesday, Ivan Provorov was third in the NHL with 44 blocked shots, and rookie defenseman Robert Hagg was fifth in hits (48). … Phantoms winger Danick Martel leads the AHL with 13 goals. … The Flyers have allowed the first goal in five of the last six games.