PHILADELPHIA – Don’t call Carter Hart a “homer,’’ even though the statistics show he’s much better playing at the Wells Fargo Center than when he isn’t.
Hart, who missed nine games with a lower abdominal strain, was scheduled to return to action on Monday with a start against the Florida Panthers.
The 21-year-old netminder is 13-2-2 with a 1.69 goals-against average at the WFC and just 2-9-1, 4.01 GAA on the road.
“Carter is good to go,’’ said Flyers coach Alain Vigneault after Monday morning’s skate. “He’s been cleared to play, has had some work in practices and should be fine for tonight.’’
At practice at the Skate Zone on Friday, Hart called his injury a “tricky’’ one. That sort of goes without saying when it comes to goalies and abdominal injuries but it bears watching.
“But as a goalie you kind of have to get thrown into positions and your body has to react,’’ Hart said. “So I think it’s important that when you come back you’re a hundred percent.
“That way when you go out and play, you don’t have to think about injury. You just go out and play.’’
His teammates are looking forward to have him back, especially on home ice where he’s basically been unbeatable.
“It’s good to have him back,’’ Scott Laughton said. “I think it was good that he took his time and get a hundred percent healthy and come back at home.
“We’re excited to have him playing. It probably felt a little long for him. . .as soon as you’re a hundred percent, you want to get in there.’’
Travis Konecny believes Hart is playing well both at home and on the road.
“He’s been solid for us, he’s played a lot of good games,’’ Konecny said. “Both away and at home. I think the whole team in general has played well at home this year.’’
Veteran Brian Elliott did an exceptional job while Hart was sidelined. He was 5-1-1 with a 2.06 goals-against average during Hart’s absence.
“No surprise there,’’ Konency said. “Moose has always been solid for us. I think it’s a lot of experience showing when he comes in these big games this time of year.
“Even the things he’s talked about in the locker room, talking with guys one-on-one. It shows that he knows how to do the right thing.’’
>Gostisbehere knee still bothersome
Shayne Gostisbehere remains sidelined after playing just one game following a 10-game absence due to left knee surgery.
Gostisbehere appeared to aggravate his knee during a mishap in practice on Friday. He sat out Saturday night’s 7-2 win over Washington and did not attend Monday morning’s skate.
“Ghost got here this morning and was feeling some pain in his knee,’’ Vigneault said. “Some overall stiffness. . .so he couldn’t skate.’’
Robert Hagg, who played an excellent game against the Caps, will be back in the lineup against the Panthers.
>Farabee could play Tuesday
Joel Farabee disclosed he lost as much as 10 pounds in his recent battle with the flu. He’s listed at only 164 pounds, so that’s a big deficit.
He said he’s gained about half of that back and after sitting out against the Panthers said he might be ready for Tuesday’s game against the Islanders in Brooklyn.
“I’m not someone who can afford to lose 10 pounds,’’ Farabee said with a smile.
According to Vigneault, Farabee is technically cleared to play right now.
“I think if we need him tomorrow he should be able to play,’’ Vigneault said. “It’s just that the bug that hit him was very severe.’’
This was a rough week or so for the 19-year-old rookie out of Boston University.
“It was a tough few days but feeling good now,’’ Farabee said. “Obviously you’re not going to change the lineup after beating Washington, so just rest up and be ready to go when they need me.’’
Adding to the frustration was the fact that Farabee had been playing well before the virus hit. He had six points (four goals, two assists, plus-4) in six games prior to the sidelining.
“Yeah, it’s a crucial time in the season,’’ he said. “You never want to get sick, especially that long. It definitely hurts having to watch on TV and not be able to do anything.’’
He was playing with Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek and that seemed to energize his game.
“I think I was keeping it really simple,’’ Farabee said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much. I was playing with ‘Coots’ and Jake and just trying to find a way to get to the net and we created a lot of offense that way.’’
>Tight race continues
It looks like the Flyers are going to be in a dogfight for a playoff spot right down to the end of the season in April.
That’s why the next stretch of games against teams like the Panthers, Islanders and later, Columbus, are so important.
“I think right now our players are looking at the standings,’’ Vigneault said. “They know that it’s a battle every night for points.’’
The Flyers entered Monday night’s play basically in a tie with Carolina for the second wild card spot and trailing the Islanders by one point and Columbus by two.