With Gustafsson Up, Lilja Top Candidate To Sit

12 Jan

He waited and waited and played five games with the Phantoms. Finally, Erik Gustafsson gets the chance to pick up where he left off. On Nov. 5, his last game with the Flyers, he was a plus-6, played a career-high 23 minutes and got his first NHL point on an assist. Then he missed almost two months of action with a wrist injury.

The Flyers called Gustafsson up on Wednesday and sent Matt Walker down to the AHL. The team has been lacking something on the blue line, not that Walker was part of the problem. He hasn’t been able to crack the lineup.

But Andreas Lilja has and he may be the one, instead of rookie Marc-Andre Bourdon, to sit as a healthy scratch. Lilja has been steadily losing ice time to Bourdon, who continues to improve and has even contributed a couple points. He had a goal in Sunday’s loss to the Senators. He seems unlikely to sit with Gustafsson back in the fold.

Some have wondered if Gustafsson has been at full strength, whether he could even take a slapshot. But he was firing from the point at Citizens Bank Park. He said that he was ready even then, but was trying not to think about a comeback to the NHL.

It was a huge disappointment for Gustafsson to miss time. When he went down injured, he was clearly playing his best hockey at the NHL level.

“It was really frustrating at the start there,” said Gustafsson last Friday. “I tried to put that aside and then when I had to have the surgery I was trying to stay positive. It was for sure really frustrating, but I’m just gonna keep working hard right now. It feels pretty good right now and I hope I get another crack at it.”

He was a plus-2 with two shots on net in the Outdoor Classic against Hershey and wants to get back to his old form. He played another game after the Outdoor Classic and registered an assist. According to Gustafsson, his conditioning was the only thing that wasn’t 100 percent. Now it will be tested at the highest level.

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