(Kate Frese/SB Nation)
Philadelphia's defense has long been a puzzle to solve for the coaching and management staff. Now, just 12 games into the new campaign, the same puzzle has come to light once again due to a series of injuries on the Flyers blue line.
As of Monday's game, the Flyers were without Andrew MacDonald long-term. They were without Shayne Gostisbehere after an injury suffered on Saturday. They called up Sam Morin from the Phantoms and were also without him due to a nagging injury that the team learned of Monday morning, forcing Mark Alt into action.
In Saturday's matchup against Toronto, Gostisbehere left the game after taking a brutal, dirty-looking hit from behind, courtesy of Leo Komarov. No penalty was called on the hit even with the linesman standing right next to the play. It was also announced on Sunday that there'd be no further look at or supplemental discipline on Komarov. The hit can be seen here:
It appears that Komarov hits Gostisbehere right in the numbers and drives him head first into the dashers. Usually, hits like that will be called and are sometimes even major penalties. However, for some mysterious reason, there was not even a minor penalty call, especially with an official right beside both players.
As of now, Gostisbehere's injury status is still day-to-day, but the extent remains unknown. The young defenseman sits fourth on the Flyers with 13 points and is also tied for third place overall in assists with 12. If the Florida native is out long-term, then the Flyers scoring and defensive effectiveness could take a real hit.
At this point, with Gostisbehere's status unknown, as well as MacDonald's lower-body injury sidelining him for four more weeks at least, the Flyers will have to do their best to keep things together on the blue line.
It could mean seeing more of young Travis Sanheim.
The 21-year-old defenseman has seen action in nine games this season, posting one assist and a rating of minus-6. He's been rotating in and out of the lineup as of late, but if Ghost is sidelined for a few games, then Sanheim could increased game action as he did on Monday night in the Flyers 4-3 overtime loss to the Coyotes.
Sanheim played 23:41 of ice time in the game and was a minus-2.
Philadelphia already has its fair share of defensive troubles this season. With the pair of injuries to MacDonald and Gostisbehere, the Flyers may have to depend on their youth to hold down the fort. That could have the Flyers hoping for speedy recoveries for Gostisbehere and MacDonald.
With MacDonald, the Flyers will have to make do without him. With Gostisbehere, it's only a matter of time until a true status is determined. From there, Dave Hakstol will have to try to complete the puzzle once again.