Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is on the verge of collecting his first 100 career points with the Flyers quicker than Mark Howe, Bob Dailey, or Behn Wilson.
Quicker, in fact, than any defenseman in franchise history.
Gostisbehere has 99 career points in 154 games. Wilson got to 100 points in his first 163 games with the Flyers, the franchise record for a defenseman to start a career.
“Ghost is an unbelievable player. I don’t think there’s one player he resembles the most,” right winger Wayne Simmonds said after Monday’s practice in Voorhees. “I just think he’s a very unique player and what he brings to the game is really hard for other people to emulate.”
Gostisbehere, who combines speed and skating creativity with a quick, hard shot, entered Monday tied for second among NHL defensemen with 14 points. He led NHL defensemen with an average of 1.17 points per game.
The Florida native missed three games with concussion-like symptoms before returning to the lineup Saturday and leading the Flyers with 11 shot attempts while playing 26 minutes, 28 seconds in a 5-4 shootout loss to Colorado.
“Luckily, I was out only a week, and I thought I did pretty well coming back from that,” he said. “During the rehab process, just keeping my wind was the toughest part because you have to be so careful with stuff like that [head injury].”
In Saturday’s game, Gostisbehere played the left side and his partner, Brandon Manning, was on the right. Both are lefthanded, but both can play either side. The player on the right usually can jump into the play more often in the Flyers’ system.
“You can make an argument both ways, and there’s maybe not a right or wrong answer there,” coach Dave Hakstol said of the defensive alignment with that pairing. “But I thought Brandon Manning’s play made it a good decision because of how he played over on the right side for the last couple of games. He did a good job there and showed real good versatility.”
The Flyers (7-6-2) don’t play again until they host Chicago (7-6-2 ) on Thursday. They had played seven games in a 12-day stretch.
“It’s a good time to get a couple of good practices in, and a good time to reset before another real busy stretch,” Hakstol said.
“We’re gearing up. We have 21 games in 45 days,” Gostisbehere said of the upcoming stretch that takes the Flyers into their Christmas break. “I think the biggest thing for our team right now is using these days right. Be smart about it. We’re definitely going to use the time to work on things, too.”
Added Gostisbehere: “It will obviously be a test for us and we’ll see how we handle it.”
It will especially be a huge challenge for the young defense, which currently includes rookies Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim, and Mark Alt.
“They’ve been tremendous,” Gostisbehere said of the rookie defensemen.
“I give them an ‘A.’ I’m an easy grader, though,” he said before adding that “our coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for getting those guys ready.”
As for the 24-year-old Gostisbehere, Hakstol said he was impressed with how he had improved his overall game this season. He has always been an offensive force, but he has made strides defensively.
“He worked extremely hard in the summer and I think he’s off to a very good start this year,” Hakstol said, “and that’s fully due to his commitment and preparation.”
Gostisbehere is plus-3; he finished minus-21 last season, a year in which he was coming off hip and abdominal surgery and didn’t look as fluid as he does now.
Howe posted 100 points in his first 122 games with the Flyers, but they weren’t at the start of his career. … Nolan Patrick, Radko Gudas, and Michal Neuvirth (maintenance day) did not practice. Patrick and Gudas are still considered day to day with apparent head injuries. … After practice, Simmonds, Brian Elliott, and Taylor Leier were among the Flyers who did a hockey clinic for 12 Air Force members from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (N.J.). The servicemen and women will be attending Saturday’s game as Simmonds’ guests during Military Appreciation Night.