Gostisbehere healthy, sees clean slate with Flyers entering season

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Shayne Gostisbehere said he’s taking a “clean slate” approach to his seventh NHL season after meeting with Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault prior to training camp.

“We had a good talk in the sense, it’s a clean slate,” the defenseman said Tuesday, the second day of on-ice work at Flyers camp. “Him and I, we just talked out last season. I went through a tough time with injuries and really couldn’t be the player I wanted to be. I just told him I’m healthy, I feel really good right now. I think this is the first time in a couple years that I feel really good. I think it was a good talk and it’s a clean slate going into the season.”

Gostisbehere scored 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 42 games last season. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Jan. 14, and a similar procedure on his right knee in late May. The 27-year-old played in five of Philadelphia’s 16 postseason games, had two assists and averaged 16:36 of ice time per game.

He had averaged 46 points the previous four seasons and scored an NHL-career high 65 points (13 goals, 52 assists) in 78 games in 2017-18, fourth among NHL defensemen.

After changes to his offseason training program, Gostisbehere said he feels better now than he has in a few seasons.

Video: PHI@WPG: Gostisbehere scores in 3rd period

“I’m in a very good place mentally because I am healthy,” Gostisbehere said. “And I think that goes a long way with my play. I don’t have to worry about certain movements on the ice where maybe it’ll hurt or not. I don’t have to do that, I can just worry about the game itself. And when you’re healthy, it’s a lot easier on the mind when you’re out there.”

Part of Gostisbehere’s offseason was spent trying to block out his name popping up in trade rumors.

“It’s definitely tough,” he said. “I’ve dealt with injuries for a pretty good part of my career, and when you sprinkle some trade rumors on top of that, and obviously not playing and you can’t get in the lineup, it’s definitely tough mentally. This break, I worked on basically just doing what’s in my control. I can’t control what’s going to happen, I can’t control where I’m going to go. The only thing I can control is getting healthy and becoming the best player I can be.”

Gostisbehere is facing tough competition for playing time this season. The Flyers signed Erik Gustafsson, who played 66 games for the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks last season, to a one-year, $3 million contract Oct. 12, giving them seven defensemen who played at least 40 NHL games last season (Ivan Provorov, 69; Travis Sanheim, 69; Justin Braun, 62; Philippe Myers, 50; Robert Hagg, 49). Rookies Mark Friedman and Egor Zamula also are expected to push for roster spots.

“He’s a very smart young man, wants to play, wants to help this team win,” Vigneault said of Gostisbehere. “He’s going to get an opportunity. He’s got to prove himself obviously, but I think for the first time since I’ve been here, he’s 100 percent healthy, which is a real positive for him. He’s come in here with a real good attitude. No exhibition games, but we’re paying a lot of attention to the scrimmages and we’ve got that intrasquad game [Jan. 10]. We’ll see what happens, how well he plays and how well he can help contribute to us winning some games.”

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