VOORHEES – When the season began, Carter Hart started in goal the first three games, went 2-0-1 and looked like he had established himself as the No. 1 starter.
But road woes and a recent lower abdominal strain, which has kept him out of seven straight games, has brought veteran netminder Brian Elliott clearly into the Flyers’ stretch drive picture.
Coach Alain Vigneault announced on Wednesday that Elliott will be in goal when the New Jersey Devils visit on Thursday night as Hart continues to recover.
Elliott’s 13-5-4 record is measurably better than Hart’s 15-11-3.
Why has Elliott been able to consistently perform so well under pressure?
Some might point to good health. After two injury-filled seasons, he hasn’t missed a game this season.
Elliott smiled and knocked on the wooden wall of his locker.
“Every day you have to take care of business, you have to take care of your body,’’ he said after Wednesday’ practice at the Skate Zone. “As you have more and more years in the league, you know how important that is.
“You know it’s fun to be able to play, to be able to contribute.’’
Clearly, the Flyers are a much better team than last year’s .500 team. Elliott gives some of the credit to additions made by general manager Chuck Fletcher.
“Adding a couple veteran guys like (Kevin) Hayes and (Matt) Niskanen. . .they’re not getting too high or too low,’’ Elliott said. “I think just having that stability. It starts with our leadership around the room and guys (like Niskanen) who have won the (Stanley) Cup.’’
Elliott has turned in some of his finest work of late. In the last four games, he’s recorded two shutouts (3-0 vs. Pittsburgh; 3-0 vs. Detroit), giving him 40 for his career.
>Gostisbehere ready to go
Shayne Gostisbehere will make his return against the Devils after missing 10 games due to knee surgery.
Vigneault would not say which defenseman would be pulled when Gostisbehere but a good bet is Robert Hagg.
“It’s felt like a couple months, not a couple weeks,’’ Gostisbehere said. “For me, I don’t want to go out there and do too much.’’
>Provorov to play in 300th straight game
Ivan Provorov has not missed a regular-season game since the start of his career. On Thursday night, he will play in his 300th consecutive game, which is just 30 off the NHL record of 330 straight games from the start of a career by a defenseman, held by Dan Girardi (New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning).
“Someone sent me a note with the record. . .I didn’t know before that,’’ Provorov said. “It means a lot. I take pride in being out there every game and trying to help the team any way possible.’’
Added Vigneault: “There’s no doubt that he’s a young man that wants to play through stuff, play through pain. He just goes out there and you know he’s going to get the job done for you. The Flyers are lucky; I’m a lucky coach. I come in here and found a young man who’s coming into his prime.’’
>Giroux putting pressure on himself?
Claude Giroux is going through a prolonged slump. He’s goal-less in his last 12 games, one of his longest goal droughts in recent memory.
Giroux indicated he might be putting a little too much pressure on himself. But it should be noted he’s still a plus-8 and he’s tied for the team lead in game-winning goals with four.
Kevin Hayes did not practice on Wednesday. He was given a maintenance day. Joel Farabee was also a no-show. He was feeling ill. . .
Hart says he’s making steady progress and should be game-ready shortly. “Just taking things day-by-day, see where things are at,’’ he said. “Things feel like they’re getting better. Taking the right steps to make sure I can get out there as soon as possible. Also making sure I come back when I’m ready.’’. . .Gostisbehere needs one more point for 200 in the NHL.