Erik Gustafsson seemingly played well enough last season to earn the right to start this season.
Yet, there are no guarantees in the NHL.
And when training camp and preseason rolled around this fall, the young Swede was a turnover machine. Subsequently, Andrej Meszaros, who was barely better, was given the No. 6 position on the Flyers' blueline.
On Saturday night in Detroit, Gustafsson subbed for Meszaros and scored a goal during the Flyers' 5-2 loss to the Red Wings.
Gustafsson will remain in the lineup Tuesday when the Flyers host the Vancouver Canucks.
“Obviously, you want to play all the games, but I don’t think I played as well as I should have in camp,” the 24-year-old defenseman said.
“It was a tough start -- I thought I would get a chance a little bit earlier, but I got in the game against Detroit and I thought I played pretty well.
“So I just have to keep looking forward and working hard. I know I have a lot of improvements to make in my game.”
Gustafsson brings speed and finesse. When his game is on, he moves the puck well up the ice. His issues in the preseason were turnovers -- both on the breakout and in the slot. That’s why he lost a starting job.
Interestingly, during his season debut, he was paired with Kimmo Timonen, giving the Flyers a double-sided, puck-moving attack of two smaller players.
“Sometimes it’s an advantage to have two small puck-moving guys, sometimes it’s not,” Gustafsson said. “You have to try to make quick passes, get out of your end as quickly as possible.”
Coach Craig Berube liked what he saw from Gustafsson against Detroit.
“I thought he played well,” Berube said. “He adds speed back there, puck moving and he’s a competitive guy and kind of all-around player. He really is. I like the speed and puck movement that he brings.”
As for Meszaros, he added, “He’s a good player, but I just didn’t see enough from him and I wanted to get Gus in there. It’s a long year. Mes is working. He worked hard [Monday], skated hard.”
Gustafsson thinks he can get comfortable in Berube’s system.
“I liked Peter’s [Laviolette] system, too,” he said. “It’s a good offensive system. But I think this system suits me as a player better. I really like what Chief is doing –- high, hard forecheck, a lot of skating.
“He wants to turn around the play real quick, which suits me as a player. Also, gives the D a little more chance to join the rush, which I like as well.”
Flyers still lead the league in total penalties (45). ... They are second in penalty minutes (118); Florida is first with 127. ... The Flyers are averaging 19.7 PIM per game. ... The same lines and defensive pairings from Saturday night in Detroit were used Monday in practice. ... The Flyers will play host to Vancouver on Tuesday. The Sedin Twins (Henrik and Daniel) have 14 points between themselves in six games. ... Mike Santorelli leads the Canucks with four goals. ... The Flyers play two home games this week and then will have six days off.