Alain Vigneault is known as a coach who tries to put his players in a position to succeed.
Which explains why he chose to pair returning defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere with a familiar face for Tuesday night’s game at New Jersey.
Gostisbehere, who just recovered from a bout with COVID-19, rejoined former partner Ivan Provorov for the match at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
The two have been together on and off over the past few seasons and seem to work well together when the opportunity presents itself.
Vigneault decided to break up the Provorov-Travis Sanheim tandem to accommodate Gostisbehere. Sanheim was scheduled to play with Mark Friedman. The third pairing was Justin Braun-Robert Hagg.
Erik Gustafsson was a healthy scratch for the first time since signing on with the Flyers as a free agent during the offseason.
Vigneault said he consulted with general manager Chuck Fletcher before making the decision and Gostisbehere was cleared to play.
“In discussing with Chuck, some of his (Gostisbehere’s) best hockey was a few years back when he was playing with Provy on a paired defense,’’ Vigneault said during a late afternoon media Zoom call. “So we’re going to try that tonight.’’
One concern might have been the minutes the two could play together.
Gostisbehere was seeing his first action of the season while Provorov leads the Flyers (and is among the NHL leaders) in ice time.
“I think what we’re going to have to do is put Shayne in a situation where he can have success,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s had success in the past with Provy.
“There might be some offensive zone faceoffs where they’re both out there and there might be some defensive zone faceoffs where we send out a defensive defenseman. It will depend on the situation.’’
Vigneault was quick to dismiss any thought that this was some sort of demotion for Sanheim.
“As a matter of fact, it’s to try to give us a little more balance on our ‘D’ pairings,’’ Vigneault said. “Having both our best skating defensemen with Travis and Provy on the same pair – and I don’t want to be negative on the other guys – but when you have Travis on one pair and Provy on the other, it might be easier to get the puck out of our end.’’
When Phil Myers recovers from his rib injury, there’s a good chance Vigneault will put him back with Sanheim. Right now, Myers’ recovery is listed as a “week to week’’ basis.
In the meantime, balancing the pairings by splitting Sanheim and Provorov might be effective.
“Good players make other players play well and look good,’’ Vigneault pointed out. “That’s what I’m hoping this will do.’’
In addition to activating Gostisbehere on Tuesday, the Flyers called up forwards Connor Bunnaman and Samuel Morin from their taxi squad.
With centers Sean Couturier and Morgan Frost sidelined, Bunnaman should be in the lineup for at least the next few games.