VOORHEES, N.J – If Brian Elliott can remain upright the remainder of the season, the Flyers have a puncher’s chance of making the playoffs.
With the exception of a four-game injury absence, the goaltender has maintained his health.
At one point, he started 18 of 19 games.
Everyone saw what Elliott did on Tuesday night at Carolina, when his acrobatic save (among other strong stops) helped the Flyers get to overtime, a game which they won with 3.1 seconds left on the clock.
“I thought he was excellent,’’ coach Dave Hakstol said after Wednesday’s optional practice at the Skate Zone. “When we were under pressure and gave up some opportunities, he made key saves at the right time for us.’’
The Flyers must know by now they can’t rely on Michal Neuvirth for any sort of consistency. He’s been injured and ill through much of this season and that’s nothing new.
So Elliott figures to get a vast majority of the starts in the final 29 games.
“He’s managed it really well to this point,’’ Hakstol said. “Even though it might have been for a reason you really didn’t want.
“With the way the schedule is going forward (there are still five back-to-backs in the next seven weeks), there are some obvious days when we’re going to use both guys,’’ Hakstol said.
“From there, we’re going to continue what we’ve done all year. We’ll monitor how he (Elliott) is feeling and where we’re at as a team and what we think is best for that night.
“Up to this point, I think ‘Moose’ has handled the workload really well. And he’s communicated very well in terms of where he’s at.’’
Elliott is no stranger to busy seasons.
Back in 2009-10, he took part in 55 games (a career high) with the Ottawa Senators.
Going into Thursday night’s game against Montreal, Elliott has competed in 39 games. So he needs 17 appearances to set a new career high, a number he figures to easily surpass.
“I know it’s cliché that we always say it’s one game at a time,’’ Elliott said. “And then they just add up. I’m not thinking about end-of-the-year stats.
“It’s true. I’m not trying to blow smoke here. I feel good, coming back (from recent injury). It gives you a little bit of a mental rest, too. It could be a little bit of a blessing in disguise. Take a little off, then come back a little refreshed.’’
The one thing the Flyers can’t risk is re-injury to the 32-year-old Elliott. So they will have to keep a close eye on his rest days.
“I feel good going into this last little bit,’’ he said. “We play a lot of games in a little time, so we need everyone going.’’
General manager Ron Hextall says Elliott is a veteran “who controls the pulse of the team.’’
That’s saying something for a guy who just joined the Flyers last summer.
“It’s the veteran presence he has in the room,’’ said Jordan Weal. “What he says before the game kind of calms the boys down, gets us focused on the job at hand.
“He’s had a lot of success and everyone has a lot of respect for him. When he says something before a game, a reminder for our team of what we have to do, everyone’s listening. It’s great to have guys like that in your room and then he goes out and battles every night. Everyone respects that, too.’’
Looking to duplicate 2015-16 playoff push
The Flyers find themselves right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and defenseman Brandon Manning says the team can use their late-season push of two years ago as a reminder of what it takes to make the postseason.
“The way we’ve been playing, I think we’re happy,’’ Manning said. “At the end of the day, when you’re still in the playoff hunt, it makes the atmosphere around here a lot better.
“I know we made that big push two years ago to make the playoffs. Now, I think we’re very confident this year, no matter the score or who we are playing. When we’re in a game, you look around the room, we’re confident we’re going to get a big save or score a big goa