VOORHEES – It figured to take some rather unusual circumstances to get rookie goaltender Carter Hart onto the Flyers before Christmas, but things have been pretty oddball of late.
Injuries have caused the Flyers to already play five goalies and if Hart, who was recalled from the Phantoms on Monday, starts Tuesday night’s game against Detroit, that might set some sort of record.
Actually, it would already tie the record for starting goalies by an NHL team (six) before Christmas (held by St. Louis).
Hart, 20, has been progressing fairly well with the Phantoms after a slow start.
Currently, he’s played in 17 games, with a 9-5-1 record, a 3.05 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
Brian Elliott, the team’s No. 1 goaltender, is sidelined right now with a lower-body injury. He accompanied the team on its just-completed 1-3-1 road trip but came back early because of a possible re-injury to his surgically-repaired hip.
Anthony Stolarz left Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Vancouver after only facing a handful of shots. He’s out two to four weeks with a lower-body injury.
Michal Neuvirth also left the road trip early to be home for the birth of his family’s child.
The new child has now arrived and is named Marco.
On Monday, the Flyers returned Alex Lyon to the Phantoms, signaling that Neuvirth is probably ready to play.
Neuvirth did play in a 7-1 loss at Winnipeg on Dec. 9.
Hart, selected in the second round (48th overall) of the 2016 draft, enjoyed a pretty good training camp and expressed hope that he would appear in a Flyers’ game before too long.
That said, it’s unusual for a 20-year-old goalie to see action in the NHL. Then again, this is a new regime under just-hired general manager Chuck Fletcher, so maybe the outlook has changed.
Hart practiced with the team on Monday in one of the strangest workouts in team history. There were 20 or so players on the ice but no head coach.
That’s because head coach Dave Hakstol was fired and replaced on an interim basis with Scott Gordon, Hart’s coach with the Phantoms.
Fletcher called the concurrent moves strictly coincidental.
As for Hart, he said in training camp he was hoping to get on the fast track to the NHL.
But maybe he might not have imagined he would be here this quickly.
“I was actually at our team Christmas party (in Allentown) last night,’’ he said with a grin. “I got the call from our coach, Scott Gordon. I was pretty excited.’’
New Flyers coach, new Flyers general manager. And now Hart gets thrust into it all. His head must be spinning.
“Obviously you don’t want to see that (a firing) happen,’’ Hart said. “A good guy, a good coach.
“But I think for us and myself, I just have to play my game. We still have a job to do. We’re professionals and we have to approach the game that way.’’
Hart seems to have found some new confidence in his game the past couple weeks. Any particular reason for that?
“I just it’s just trusting my game,’’ he said. “Not trying to overthink plays. I know earlier in the year, making the transition from junior to pro level, I was kind of overanalyzing everything.
“I talked to the coaches down there and my goalie coaches back home. I just have to trust my game. Play to my strengths and when it is game time, just play. Can’t think, just play.’’
Hart says the biggest thing is finding his consistency in practice and making sure the competition level is the same there as it is in games.
He gives some of the credit for his improvement to Gordon.
“No problems with Gordo,’’ Hart said. “He’s been helpful for me. He’s an ex-goalie himself, so that helps. The guys will like him here.’’
Elliott not back soon
Fletcher said Elliott won’t be back until January at the earliest and made it sound like this could drag on for a while.
“There’s still some uncertainty,’’ said Fletcher. “Brian has been making some progress. But probably not as much progress as we would all like.
“He’s going to have his film (MRI/X-rays) reviewed in a couple different ways. We’re going to have some conversations for the best approach going forward. We’re still confident we’re going to get him back to a place where he can play.
“At this point I would suggest there’s nothing imminent to his return. We’re working on getting the proper game plan right now.’’
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