Carter Hart getting closer to returning for Flyers

Carter Hart getting closer to returning for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Carter Hart still wears his Stadium Series gear specially tailored for that outdoor game.

Those black pads with orange lining will only see morning skates and practices, and right now, that’s exactly where Hart is in his recovery from a sore ankle that will force him to miss his sixth straight game against the Capitals. 

However, Hart joined his teammates for the first time during Wedneday’s morning skate and he’ll likely ramp up his activity level for Thursday’s practice.

“I felt pretty good,” Hart said. "Obviously, we’re being careful.”

Hart injured the ankle leaning up against the post during the Flyers' morning skate prior to his start in Montreal on Feb. 21. He was pulled midway through the first period after allowing three goals on nine shots, including one in which he was leaning up against the post. However, Hart maintains the injury had nothing to do with the goal itself. 

“It progressively got worse,” Hart said. “You play the game, you don’t really think about your injury. As a goaltender, you’re in that position quite a bit when there’s any plays behind the goal line or on the wall. I started feeling it a lot more the next day. We’re taking the right steps.”

It’s the third minor injury Hart can remember. He has also strained a hamstring and pulled his groin. Both required just a couple of weeks of recovery time prior to his turning pro.

The Flyers' rookie sensation wants to return to game action before next Thursday’s rematch with the Capitals. However, interim head coach Scott Gordon may have other ideas, especially considering how well Brian Elliott has played in his six appearances from reaggravating a core muscle injury. The Flyers have earned points in all four of Elliott’s starts with a 3-0-1 record.

Looking ahead, the ideal game to work Hart back in would be next Monday against the lowly Ottawa Senators, a team that has won just four of its previous 19 games.

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Flyers' lineup could look a whole lot different as Capitals come to town

Flyers' lineup could look a whole lot different as Capitals come to town

VOORHEES, N.J. — With the defending Stanley Cup champions coming to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time, the Flyers are suddenly dealing with a whole other set of issues they haven’t experienced this season.

Perhaps for the first time the Flyers could be without two of their top six forwards. 

Nolan Patrick missed Tuesday’s practice after taking a shot to the back of the head in the first period of last Sunday’s game against the Islanders and Jakub Voracek (lower-body injury) will be reevaluated Wednesday but has already been ruled out for the game against the Capitals. 

Voracek has been playing some of his best hockey, at least offensively, with nine points in his last four games, while helping solidify the team’s second line with Sean Couturier and Oskar Lindblom.

Patrick hasn’t been ruled out after skating in a separate group with injured goaltenders Carter Hart and Michal Neuvirth. The Flyers' center will be reevaluated after the morning skate Wednesday.

“Practice today was kind of weird missing a lot of players,” Claude Giroux said. “We know the position we’re in right now. These two points [Wednesday] are going to be huge for us. We need to find chemistry and find it fast.”

Finding chemistry wasn’t much of an issue Sunday against the Islanders. After losing Patrick just five minutes into the game, the Flyers responded with two first-period goals with interim head coach Scott Gordon mixing and matching his lines with just 10 forwards.

“Guys have to step up and play more minutes,” Scott Laughton said. “It’s a good challenge for a lot of our guys and to step up into a role you’re not necessarily thrown into in a normal game.”

Such was the case Sunday for Corban Knight, playing in just his fourth game back from injury, who was called upon to play over 17 minutes, the most ice time he had ever seen in an NHL game, which could be a similar situation once again if Patrick can’t play Wednesday.

In that event, Gordon will go with his combination of 11 forwards and seven defensemen for a fourth time this season. The Flyers are 3-0-0 in those games in which Gordon has used the extra defenseman. 

“It keeps [Andrew MacDonald] in the mix because at some point you've got to keep everybody involved, because there are going to be injuries, so I think that’s a better option for us,” Gordon said. “If everybody’s in the right position, it shouldn’t matter who’s on the ice.”

Under Gordon recently, learning to play with anyone at any time has been a big key for the Flyers, now 16-3-2 since Jan. 14. That’s why line combinations have become almost meaningless at times as forwards have adapted to taking shifts with teammates with little or no practice time together.

“I showed the guys this morning a clip from the third period [Sunday] where all three forwards change one at a time and throughout that we maintained our neutral-zone forecheck,” Gordon said. “Part of that recognition is that we don’t want to change wholesale. We want to make sure we’re changing one at a time in the right situation.” 

It’s a go-with-the-flow mentality, and right now, there’s a lot of flow to the Flyers' system.

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Carter Hart hid pregame injury, played through it vs. Montreal

Carter Hart hid pregame injury, played through it vs. Montreal

The lower-body injury Carter Hart sustained which will sideline him for at least 10 days actually took place during Thursday morning’s skate in Montreal, according to Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon.

However, Hart never disclosed the injury to his coach prior to the start of the game against the Canadiens. Hart was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals on nine shots.

“Carter, to his credit, was trying to fight through it and it was a little more severe than he thought,” Gordon said. “When I look back at the game, forget about the goals — the shot before the third goal, there was a couple other plays that I thought he was a little off on and he just didn't look right to me. And now that might explain it."

Gordon said he had no idea of Hart’s injury until he spoke with general manager Chuck Fletcher after meeting with the media Friday, when he made the announcement that Brian Elliott would be the starter in net for Saturday's Stadium Series game against the Penguins.

“Needless to say, it would have been a lot easier if I had known yesterday that he wasn't going to play Saturday," Gordon said. "Then I wouldn't have had my four-minute conversation with you."

In hindsight, Gordon could sense Hart wasn’t quite right — not with the goals he allowed, but with some of the saves he made.

"I couldn't tell if he was favoring it,” Gordon said. “I don't necessarily look at just the goals if I'm going to pull the goaltender. It's more about how he's handling rebounds and I felt pucks were coming off him funny."

Hart is expected to miss at least the next ten days, or the next five games on the Flyers' schedule. He’s the fifth different Flyers goaltender to sustain an injury this season.

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