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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Flyers place Andy Welinski on NHL waivers, will create more cap space

Flyers place Andy Welinski on NHL waivers, will create more cap space

Andy Welinski, who had been out with a lower-body injury, was deemed healthy Monday and placed on waivers.

If the 26-year-old defenseman expectedly clears, he will report to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

The move is notable for a few reasons.

The Flyers' cap space will increase from $283,811 to $1,033,811, according to CapFriendly.com.

Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) remains on injured reserve and counts against the cap like Welinski did. When the 20-year-old center is healthy, the Flyers will have room for him because the roster is at 21 players. Patrick appears to be getting closer to a return as he is with the Flyers on their current three-game road trip.

The Flyers might still make a move when Patrick inserts the lineup. An odd man out could be Connor Bunnaman or Carsen Twarynski, both 21-year-old rookies. It would make sense if the Flyers want them playing games at Lehigh Valley rather than sitting in the press box as an extra forward.

If the Flyers decide to send one of those players down, it would also create more cap flexibility. Chris Stewart, a veteran winger who turns 32 years old this month, remains with the team on a pro tryout.

As for Welinski, he will help a young Phantoms team if he clears waivers. Welinski has played 146 career AHL games and appeared in a career-high 26 games for the Ducks last season.

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Is Jakub Voracek's trimmed ice time a big deal?

Is Jakub Voracek's trimmed ice time a big deal?

Jakub Voracek’s 14:30 ice time Saturday night was certainly noteworthy.

It marked the 30-year-old winger’s fewest minutes in a game since the 2015-16 season. When the Flyers were trailing, 2-1, during the third period, one of their best and most experienced playmakers saw no more than three minutes of the ice. In the final stanza, Voracek was bumped off the first line and had shifts with the team’s fourth unit.

The development, which comes in the third game of the season under a new head coach, is nothing to sweep under the rug as if it never happened.

Is it troubling, though? No, at least not yet.

The fact is the Flyers have great depth in their top six. So much so that James van Riemsdyk, a two-time 30-goal scorer and the Flyers’ fourth-highest-paid player, opened the season on the third line.

On Saturday night in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Canucks (see observations), the Flyers were looking to spark their offense during the third period. They had one goal and 17 shots on net at the time. Head coach Alain Vigneault has said how he’s still searching for the best chemistry within his forward combinations and defensive pairs.

JVR, who finished with 15:11 and 15:37 minutes in the Flyers’ first two games, respectively, played 20:19 Saturday night. His jump to the first line was effective as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 14-6, during the third period with van Riemsdyk, Kevin Hayes and Claude Giroux creating plenty of offense.

When asked Tuesday if he was inclined to experiment with lines early in the season, Vigneault said:

Yes, until I find the chemistry. I’m a firm believer in I think players like to stay on the same line — chemistry gets formed and accountability gets formed also between linemates and D partners. Last game against Chicago was the first time that I felt throughout the four lines we had some chemistry that enabled us to play well defensively and generate some chances offensively. How long that’s going to stay? It’s going to depend obviously on the players’ performance. Until I find the right mix — it could be a duo with a guy going in and out, it could be a line. I’d prefer it be lines, but that obviously depends on the players’ performances.

Vigneault will switch things up and try different combinations. He will also spread out ice time to maximize his push-the-pace, hard-on-the-attack style.

If anything, this is an indication that competition is aplenty among the Flyers’ forwards. There is talent available and minutes are up for grabs.

If you want those minutes, you have to earn them and then keep them.

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