Flyers

Flyers 2, Predators 1: Carter Hart stands on head against West's best

Flyers 2, Predators 1: Carter Hart stands on head against West's best

BOX SCORE

The Carter Hart era is off to a 2-0 start.

Hart stopped 31 shots Thursday night in the Flyers' 2-1 win over the Predators.

How well did the Flyers' PK respond and who were the real difference makers?

• I wrote during the preseason that Hart’s ability to read plays and his awareness would be a big improvement to the team’s penalty kill. This game was proof of that. Robert Hagg had two big blocked shots on a 5-on-3 and Hart two big saves.

The Flyers successfully killed off 3:07 of Nashville power-play time from the end of the second period to the beginning of the third.

• Sean Couturier almost always does the little things required to play winning hockey. On Jakub Voracek's first-period goal, Couturier's play and puck work along the boards surrounded by Nashville players stood out as Voracek and Wayne Simmonds jumped off the bench. Most might credit Couturier's pass in setting up Voracek's tap-in goal but for the Flyers, it all started with Couturier's determination to keep the puck in the zone.

• Nashville really missed two of its biggest playmakers in defenseman P.K. Subban and winger Filip Forsberg. Without them, the Predators had the look of a more north-south team attempting to play a more grind-it-out type of game.

• I didn’t like how the Flyers couldn’t cover Hart’s rebound on Nashville’s goal, allowing third-line center Nick Bonino to drift down the middle of the ice uncovered and unaccounted for.

• I really liked Scott Laughton’s game as he brought his skating legs to this game. I’ll also contend he plays better at wing because he plays more of a north-south game and doesn’t have to think of playing a 200-foot game as much as he does at center. 

• Travis Konecny gets knocked for his defense and deservedly so at times, but give Konecny most of the credit on Claude Giroux’s 2-1 goal. Konecny did a terrific job of backchecking in the neutral zone and knocking the puck away from Preds defenseman Anthony Bitetto, which led to the Flyers' 2-on-1 going back the other way. Also, Konecny made that play after taking a hard shot off his leg just minutes earlier.

• It seems to be rather fashionable to highly criticize the Flyers' second power-play unit, but until it starts receiving significant ice time, it’s not a fair assessment. On three straight power-play possessions, the top unit was on the ice for the first 1:30 of the two minutes. The second unit never had the opportunity to set up. Considering how ineffective the top unit has been this season, if you want to give that second unit a chance to gel and gain some confidence, put it out there for the start of the two minutes.

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Flyers vs. Lightning: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Lightning: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

The hottest team in hockey will finally host the team that hasn’t turned down the heat all season.

With an NHL best 12-2-1 record since Jan. 12, the Flyers (28-24-7, 63 pts.) will continue their frenzied push for a playoff spot as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (45-11-4, 94 pts.) for the final time this season.

The Flyers will look to avoid their first season sweep against the Lightning since the 2013-14 season.

Let's take a look at tonight's essentials: 

• When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. 
• Where: Wells Fargo Center
• Broadcast: NBCSP
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers recalled goaltender Brian Elliott from his conditioning loan with the Phantoms and have activated him from injured reserve to the active roster (see story). Elliott will back up Carter Hart for tonight’s game against the Lightning.

Hart will be the fourth different Flyers goaltender the Lightning have faced in their last four meetings with Michal Neuvirth, Cal Pickard and Petr Mrazek as the others. 

After a 2-4-1 start to his career, Hart is 11-2-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage over his last 13 appearances. 

• Tonight’s matchup is the 100th meeting between the Flyers and Lightning with the Flyers owning a 47-37-8-7 advantage.

In the first matchup at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 17, the Lightning became the sixth team in league history to cough up a four-goal lead in the third period before winning 6-5 in overtime. Ironically, the Flyers matched that same dubious feat when they lost a 5-1 lead to the Red Wings on Saturday before Travis Konecny pulled through with the game-winner in overtime.

In the Dec. 27 rematch at Amalie Arena, the Flyers battled back from a three-goal deficit in the third period, tying the game before Tampa Bay won it again in the OT period.  

• The speed of Lightning has been blinding so far this season. Tampa Bay needed just 58 games to reach the 90-point plateau. Only eight teams in NHL history have topped 90 points prior to their 60th regular-season game.

It’s a good test. If we find a way to squeak into the playoffs it’s a possible matchup for us. We’re excited about this game. The games we’ve played against them have been fun to play. I don’t see why tonight won’t be fun.

-Claude Giroux

Would you believe the 1979-80 Flyers hold the record? Pat Quinn’s team ripped off a 35-game unbeaten streak and started that season with a 39-4-13 mark for 91 points in their first 56 games.

• Tampa Bay is also the first team since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins to have three 70-point scorers before the 60-game mark of the season. 

Remarkably, the NHL’s leading scorer and Hart Trophy favorite Nikita Kucherov is on pace to finish with a whopping 135 points. Even if Kucherov finishes with 101 points, he will have increased his point total every season since entering the league in 2013-14.

Kucherov comes to Philadelphia on a five-game point streak with seven goals and 11 assists, an average of 3.6 points per game.

Projected lineup

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Jake Voracek
Scott Laughton-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Phil Varone-Justin Bailey

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hägg-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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Flyers recall Brian Elliott from conditioning assignment with Phantoms

Flyers recall Brian Elliott from conditioning assignment with Phantoms

VOORHEES, N.J. — Brian Elliott will be back in a Flyers sweater for the first time since Nov. 15. 

The 33-year-old goaltender was recalled Tuesday from his conditioning assignment with the Phantoms and is expected to back up Carter Hart for Tuesday’s game against the Lightning.

It will be interesting to see what Elliott’s future in Philadelphia is for the remainder of this season with the addition of Cam Talbot, who wasn’t with his new team for Wednesday’s morning skate in Voorhees.

Elliott could be traded to a contending team with no roster restrictions after the Feb. 25 deadline, although NHL teams still have to be compliant with the salary cap.

Once again, the Flyers have three goaltenders on the active roster with Hart, Elliott and Mike McKenna. McKenna could be placed on waivers as soon as Talbot is cleared to join the team.

Elliott played admirably in his 14 games prior to his injury with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. However, his 6-7-0 record doesn’t reflect that. He appeared in two games for the Phantoms over the weekend.

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