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Radko Gudas will be healthy scratch tonight

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Is that the whole story? Only the Flyers know for sure.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Yesterday at practice, the Philadelphia Flyers rolled with adjusted defensive pairings, hinting at some type of shake-up for Thursday’s home game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The presence of Shayne Gostisbehere alongside usual scratch Nick Schultz had many wondering if the dynamic blueliner would be sat in the press box for the second time this season, despite one of his better games of 2016-17 in Buffalo. Today, we learned that Gostisbehere will remain in the lineup, but that yesterday’s practice did contain hints of the lineup decision to come.

Radko Gudas will sit tonight, with the team designating him as a healthy scratch. Mark Streit is closing in on a return from injury, but he will miss tonight’s game as well, making the Streit-Gudas pairing from yesterday’s skate in Voorhees the true “scratch pairing.” Schultz will play in Gudas’ place.

Gudas’ performance in recent weeks has been mostly fine from a process standpoint, but the on-ice results have not been there. He has continued to drive play in terms of shot differential (both adjusted and nonadjusted), but the opposition has won the goals battle anyway.

The numbers imply that this is a rash decision, driven by the goal-based percentages not going Gudas’ way recently despite sound underlying play. However, there is a complicating factor that could help to explain this decision by Dave Hakstol. Gudas was a surprise scratch back on December 30th due to an injury, and there is some conjecture that this “healthy” scratch could actually be driven by a continuation of those issues.

If this is truly a “get well soon” scratch rather than an indictment of Gudas’ recent performance (which has been generally okay aside from an awful game in Columbus), then the decision becomes easier to swallow. After all, Vancouver is not an especially strong team — even if they have battled back into the playoff hunt in the West — and the Flyers are playing at home, where the odds do shift in their favor. The team seems fully capable of earning two points even without Gudas.

Still, the only public information from the team came from Hakstol, who noted that he wanted to see more consistency in the blueliner’s game, so it’s justifiable to take his comment at face value as well. Either way, the defense takes a big hit with Gudas out of the lineup. He’s been the second best play-driver at 5-on-5 on the defense this season (behind Gostisbehere) and leads the blueline in 5v5 time on ice per game. He also ranks third in Penalty Kill minutes per game. The Flyers are almost certainly a worse club in his absence.