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Flyers' Shayne Gostisbehere takes positive approach to first benching

PHILADELPHIA — The irony was so thick, you could cut it with a knife.

At 10 a.m. on Thursday, it was announced that Shayne Gostisbehere had been voted "Pro Athlete of the Year" by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association.

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At 11 a.m., the Flyers announced that Gostisbehere would be a healthy scratch, essentially the first time in his brief NHL career, for that evening's game against the Winnipeg Jets.

While not exactly experiencing a "sophomore jinx" season, Gostisbehere hasn't been close to the player who finished runner-up to the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) last season.

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He has registered 10 points in 17 games and is a minus-4 this season. Those numbers aren't bad — and his contribution to the NHL's second-ranked power play has been good.

But there appears to be something missing. Whether that's because other teams have made defensive adjustments and affected Gostisbehere's performance is up for debate.

So Gostisbehere came out and Andrew MacDonald, returning from injury, went back into the lineup.

"It gets a little tougher the second time around," coach Dave Hakstol said after the morning skate. "For me, all the elements of Shayne's game are there.

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"But it's just continued growth and development as he continues to move forward. There's not one element that's missing."

Gostisbehere took the benching in stride, yet he's not used to this sort of treatment. Don't forget, he's been a winner wherever he's played, including his final year at Union College when he led that school to a coveted NCAA championship.

"If I say I'm going to be happy about it, I'm lying," Gostisbehere said. "You know for me right now I think it's the best thing.

"You know, I'm going to get up in that (press) box up there and take everything in. And just make this into a positive."

Hakstol said that Gostisbehere has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, including knowing when to jump up in the play and when to get back on defense in a hurry.

Can Gostisbehere see that technical side of the game by watching upstairs?

"Absolutely," he said. "It's not even watching myself, it's watching other players, how they're playing the game, too. You take little things from them, apply it to your game and I think that it helps a lot."

Hakstol is taking a clinical approach to this.

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"You can't make too much out of it (the benching)," he said. "It's not a small thing to have Shayne out of our line-up. Yet I think it's a good thing for him, in his growth and his development and a few things that we're asking him to concentrate on."

Veteran Mark Streit said for Gostisbehere, it's a case of adjusting to the defensive adjustments made by other teams.

"He had a remarkable first year last year," Streit said. "It's always tough when you have a great year, the second year. Guys in the league know him now, they didn't last year. They knew he was a good, skilled player.

"But then you get defended differently. It's part of the league. Guys are smart, they do video and they try different ways of defending that. It's just part of the business and just something you have to get used to.

"He has the skill set and the hockey sense to make the right plays out there. Generally, it's just tough. . .guys are getting in lanes, they're blocking shots and if you have such a great year, you get more attention. You have to find a way to learn from it."

Gostisbehere started off last year in the minor leagues but joined the Flyers in November. He had an immediate impact and would go on to set several rookie records, finishing the year with 46 points in 64 games with a plus-8.

Hakstol denied he was trying to send the Florida native a "wake-up call.''

"There's no wake-up call needed," Hakstol said. "It's accountability within our group. It's an opportunity for him to address some things within his game. An opportunity to watch the game from above which can help a young player."

Gostisbehere is trying to take this the right way.

"I was a little taken aback by it, but I think right now it's what's best for the team, I guess," Gostisbehere said. "I can learn a lot form up there.

"When I was injured the whole year (two seasons ago), that's where I sat and I learned a lot and it helped me in my rookie year. It's a good learning curve right now. It hits home, for sure, and makes me work that much harder."

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