VOORHEES – He might be still just 20 years old and he hasn’t played in 20 days, but that doesn’t mean the Flyers are going to baby Carter Hart back into the lineup.
It’s “here you go, kid, have at those Metro Division-leading Washington Capitals.’’
That’s what head coach Scott Gordon has planned for the rookie goaltender, who is scheduled to take on Alexander Ovechkin & Co. on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Facing back-to-back games – the Flyers visit Toronto on Friday – Gordon decided it would be best to put Hart back in for this challenging game.
“It (playing at home) is only easier (for Hart) because it’s more routine,’’ Gordon said after giving his team off from practice on Tuesday.
“This way he gets to practice today (Hart took shots with several spare players on Tuesday), tomorrow and the pre-game on Thursday, as opposed to traveling, getting in late to Toronto, no pre-game skate. So I’m trying to give him some kind of normalcy to the routine if he were playing all the time.’’
Is it tough for Gordon to keep three goalies happy?
Hart played so well before he got injured. Elliott is on a hot streak (5-1-1). And Cam Talbot needs to get some work in, too, to avoid getting rusty in case he’s needed at some point.
“I think Brian made it easy for me,’’ Gordon said. “I don’t know what the number is but I think since Brian came back, starting with the Montreal game, his save percentage is close to .940. You can’t ignore that.
“That’s why when you look at the game against Washington (Elliott was pulled after allowing four goals), his performances before that. . .that’s why I came back to him on Long Island.
“Same thing with Carter when I pulled him against Tampa Bay. I didn’t throw away all of his previous work and say, you know what, you’re not going back in on Thursday (vs. Montreal) because he had played pretty well up to that point.’’
Hart says he’s ready for Ovechkin and the crew because he’s been working diligently in preparation for his comeback.
“I’m just excited to get back into a game,’’ said Hart, who was backup to Elliott for Monday’s 3-2 win over Ottawa. “I know it’s been a little while. Last night it was good to get back into the game lineup, even though I wasn’t playing, just get into the rhythm of warming up and being around the guys again.’’
This is the first time Hart (13-8-1, 2.79 goals-against average, .917 save percentage) has faced the Capitals.
“It will be cool,’’ Hart said. “It will be a lot of fun.’’
Hart and Washington star goalie Braden Holtby were spotted talking when the Capitals visited last Wednesday.
“We were just talking about things in our lives, he’s a good dude,’’ Hart said. “He and (Carey) Price were my favorite goalies growing up. He’s a good skater, very positional, very sound. That’s why he’s one of the best goalies in the league.’’
Hart maintains he’s never had trouble getting his timing back after an absence from the game. He’s endured hamstring and groin injuries, plus a case of mononucleosis last season.
“I think I just jump right back in,’’ he said. “Last year after mono I think I just jumped back into the midst of things.’’
Hart had a chance to watch his own team as well as opponents during his layoff and said the secret to the Flyers’ success is pretty simple.
“It’s our resilience,’’ he said. “I think that’s something I already dealt with, being here the past three or four months, whatever it’s been.
“Just the way that we can battle back, we don’t let the score affect our play. No matter what the score is, we stick to our game and we keep playing hard.’’
>NHL silent on Voracek appeal
Jake Voracek was in New York on Tuesday, meeting with NHL officials to appeal the length of his two-game suspension for his hit on the Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk this past Saturday.
Voracek already served the first game of the suspension by sitting out Monday night’s game against Ottawa.
The NHL said it would not announce a verdict on Voracek’s appeal until Wednesday.