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Sam Gagner recalled from Lehigh Valley

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After a nine-game stint in the AHL, Sam Gagner is back in Philadelphia. The pertinent question is why.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

When forward Sam Gagner was sent down to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on December 31st, the roster situation for the Philadelphia Flyers was far different than it is today.

The Flyers needed to clear roster and cap space to keep defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere on the team following the return of Mark Streit. Instead of sending Scott Laughton to the AHL or risking the loss of Brandon Manning to waivers, they chose to slip Gagner through waivers instead. But following the trade of Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn, Philadelphia no longer lacks in cap space, and many wondered when Gagner would return to the NHL.

Today proved to be that day.

Right now, the circumstances surrounding Gagner's recall are still a bit hazy. The team plays in Pittsburgh tonight, so in theory, Gagner could jump into the lineup. Sean Couturier has already been ruled out of the game with a lower-body injury, and his spot was previously expected to pass to new acquisition Jordan Weal or a seventh defenseman. Now, Gagner provides another option.

The big question is whether the recall has anything to do with the long-term status of Couturier. By all reports, his injury originally appeared to be minor. But Gagner could be rejoining the Flyers because the team has now determined that Couturier could be out for an extended period of time, and they believe they need a replacement with more NHL experience than Weal.

Or, this could just be a matter of Gagner earning his place back with the Flyers due to solid play (one goal, five assists in nine games) in Lehigh Valley. Either way, Gagner should be available for tonight's game, and in just a few hours, we'll know if he'll be suiting up to face the Pittsburgh Penguins.