Flyers

Flyers' Carter Hart will make his first start in three weeks on Thursday

Flyers' Carter Hart will make his first start in three weeks on Thursday

VOORHEES, N.J. — Carter Hart was the last player off for Tuesday’s optional skate.

The rookie goaltender will be the first guy to take the ice when the Flyers host the Washington Capitals Thursday night.

Head coach Scott Gordon announced that Hart will make his first start since injuring his ankle on Feb. 21, exactly three weeks to the day of his last appearance.

Gordon made the decision not based on Brian Elliott’s last start against the Capitals, which may have been his worst since returning from injury, but which game made the most sense for Hart.

“I looked at what would be best for Carter routine-wise,” Gordon said. “As opposed to having to travel, no pregame skate the day of. I think just from a comfort standpoint, it would be easy to go through that routine than having to play his first game back on the road.”

With most of the team staying off the ice Tuesday, Hart got in a full workout with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh and will have two more practices under his belt leading up to Thursday’s game.

“I’m just excited to get back into a game. I know it’s been a little while,” Hart said. “Last night was good to get back into the lineup even though I wasn’t playing, just to get back into the rhythm of warming up again.”

Now, just three points back of the wild card, the Flyers will need Hart to pick where he left off prior to his injury and before the two games where he was pulled early after allowing three goals in the first 10 minutes of the opening period. 

Hart will be the fourth different Flyers goaltender the Capitals have seen this season, and they don’t really seem to mind who’s in net. They ripped off five goals against Mike McKenna on Feb. 8 and then torched Elliott and Cam Talbot (who allowed just one goal in relief) for five more goals just a week ago.

Statistically, it seems to make sense as well. 

In 16 appearances against the Capitals, Brian Elliott has a 3.24 GAA with a .890 save percentage — the worst career numbers against any Eastern Conference opponent. Elliott will then pick up the start in the second game of the back-to-back on Friday in Toronto.

Where Gordon goes from there, with Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh, hasn’t been determined. It appears Elliott is still Gordon’s go-to guy for now with a .923 save percentage in the 486-plus minutes he’s played since returning from injury.

At the very least, expect Hart to pick up a couple of more starts with a jam-packed calendar this month, as the Flyers play 10 games over an 18-day span, including two more back-to-backs. 

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Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

The Flyers saw both ends of the spectrum with their first-round picks from the 2018 draft.

While Joel Farabee shined at Boston University this season (see story), Jay O'Brien struggled to find his game at Providence College.

After a freshman season comprised of injuries and five points (two goals, three assists) in 25 games, it appears O'Brien's time with the Friars is over.

According to a report Tuesday by Jeff Cox of the New England Hockey Journal, O'Brien has entered the NCAA transfer portal and will play for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL during the 2019-20 season.

O'Brien, a playmaking center, will have three years of college eligibility remaining.

Now, before anyone starts debating O'Brien's future, let's remember the importance of perspective with teenage prospects. 

O'Brien was perceived as a bit of project when the Flyers' previous regime of Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor selected him 19th overall last summer. Taking O'Brien at No. 19 was viewed by many as a reach, but the Flyers' scouting staff was high on the Thayer Academy product and trusted its evaluation. The Flyers took O'Brien over other centers Joseph Veleno, Rasmus Kupari and Isac Lundestrom.

This season, Veleno put up 104 points in the QMJHL, Kupari had 33 points over 43 games in Liiga (Finnish pro league) and Lundestrom appeared in 15 games with the Ducks.

O'Brien, because of his smaller stature (5-foot-11, 174 pounds) and being drafted out of prep school, had an adjustment period playing Division I hockey (see story). Multiple injuries also didn't help his cause with the transition.

But patience with O'Brien was always going to be imperative. The Flyers drafted him on a lot of upside after taking more of a guarantee in the quick-rising Farabee five picks earlier. The 19-year-old O'Brien isn't lacking in ability or work ethic. Providence head coach Nate Leaman, who led the Friars to a national title in 2015, called O'Brien's skill set "elite."

"It takes time to learn to play at the speed, to play with the lack of space," Leaman said in January during a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story).

"These guys that come right from high school, it takes time and I know Philly has told us that they understand that also."

O'Brien paid little attention to pre-draft rankings last summer.

"I don't even know where I was," he said at development camp. "It doesn't mean much to me. It's not really where you get drafted, it's what you do after you get drafted."

He'll have a new path in 2019-20, another chance to prove himself. There's still plenty to like, with plenty of time.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Game 7s are here for Maple Leafs-Bruins, Golden Knights-Sharks series

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Game 7s are here for Maple Leafs-Bruins, Golden Knights-Sharks series

The two best words in sports: Game Seven.

Well, we get two times the fun Tuesday night as Game 7 matchups are here for the Maple Leafs-Bruins and Golden Knights-Sharks first-round playoff series.

Below is the full schedule for Day 14 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Eastern Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Western Conference first round
10 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here