Don’t call it a reset, it’s more like a restart.
Flyers goaltender Carter Hart will sit out both games in Buffalo in order to work on his game.
In fact, he won’t even serve as backup to Brian Elliott for Monday night’s game against the Sabres because coach Alain Vigneault wants him to focus strictly on his practice time with goaltending instructor Kim Dillabaugh.
Alex Lyon will be the backup for the game against the Sabres, who have lost 17 straight games, tied for the second-longest non-win streak in NHL history.
Buffalo will be trying to avoid the dubious distinction of tying the NHL record – 18, held by the 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Vigneault has tried this goaltending arrangement for an individual game but this is the first time he’s made it clear Hart needs to get his act together.
The third-year netminder’s numbers have dropped to a dismal won-loss record of 8-9-3, with a mediocre 4.04 goals-against average and .869 save percentage.
All three numbers are unacceptable.
“He (Hart) needs to work on his game, he needs to work harder, work better,’’ Vigneault said during a media Zoom call prior to the morning skate in Buffalo.
“I had a good conversation with him and Kim about my expectations, his practice habits and him stopping the puck. Carter’s going to benefit from practicing here.’’
In a sense, this is back to square one for the Edmonton native who had shown much promise in his first two seasons with Philadelphia.
“This is not a rest day for Carter, this is a work day,’’ Vigneault said. “We were able to have him skate in practice yesterday, we’re going to have him skate and stay on the ice and work on his game (Monday).
“Tomorrow (Tuesday) is a team practice day, which we hadn’t had a lot (first in 12 days). I think you could tell when we practiced prior to last game. We were able to work on a couple things and those definitely showed up on the ice.’’
While there is some debate over whether or not Hart is struggling to find his confidence, it’s safe to say he’s not been on his game for over a month.
“He (Hart) is going to practice with the team tomorrow and stay on after,’’ Vigneault said. “Wednesday he will do the same thing. . .practice and work with Kim after.’’
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is positive Hart will rebound from this rough stretch.
“We all know ‘Hartsy’ is a good goalie,’’ Gostisbehere said. “Everyone goes through their ups and downs. Right now it’s a down and it’s the time of year where we need wins.
“I think Hartsy is going to be fine. It’s just he needs to find himself, find his game. He can do that. He knows he’ll be back stronger. We’re definitely worried about Hartsy at all. He’s going to be hard on himself, that’s just the type of kid he is. He likes to compete and we know he’s going to come back strong.’’
>Sabres losing but improving
The Sabres figured to present the Flyers with a tough challenge. While they have been losing, they still have put up a fight.
Take Saturday’s game in Boston. The Sabres were leading, 2-1, well into the game but eventually lost at TD Garden, 3-2.
Vigneault told his team not to take the Sabres for granted.
“I told my captain (Claude Giroux) and my assistants to be on top of that right now,’’ Vigneault said. “This is a game for us we need.
“Buffalo, in my estimation, is a good team – they’re going through a challenging time right now. We need to be puck-movers when it’s time to move that puck. I expect the leadership of this group to make sure that everyone is on high alert.’’
Currently, the Sabres are tied with the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and 1992-93 San Jose Sharks with that aforementioned streak of 17 straight losses.
>Morin-Gostisbehere pairing looks sharp
Vigneault may have found a defense pairing he likes with Samuel Morin and Gostisbehere manning the third unit.
The two played together years back at Lehigh Valley and seem to have a little chemistry going.
“I thought they were effective (in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Rangers),’’ Vigneault said. “Sam, for the most of the night, had a real tight gap. Other than that one time where he got beat wide by speed I thought defensively he was very good.
“Shayne, I thought, moved the puck very well, quick to our forwards. It was their second game together and I thought a good pair for us.’’
Like Morin, Gostisbehere has been through an ACL surgery (Morin has had two). He admires Morin’s ability to persevere.
“I’ve known Sam for the last eight years,’’ Gostisbehere said. “He’s playing defense, having fun. The cherry on top is he scores a goal (in the Ranger game). Sammy deserved that one in that moment, for sure. He’s probably been dreaming about it his whole life.’’
>Sounding off OK after losses
Vigneault claims he did not read or hear Gostisbehere’s comments after Thursday night’s 8-3 loss to the Rangers in which he said the team “has lost its identity.’’
But the coach said he understands why players sound off in frustrating situations and indicated that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“I do expect our guys after a loss to be upset and disappointed in their performances,’’ he said. “And do what they have to do to come back the next game and play the right way.
“That’s what our team did (2-1 win over the Rangers on Saturday).’’
>Practice time valuable
With the Flyers’ schedule finally opening up a bit, the team will be able to get in some valuable practices. Vigneault welcomes the opportunity to get in essential work time and clean up mistakes.
“We’ll have our first two-day break here in between games (Thursday-Friday),’’ Vigneault said. “Then we have five (games) in seven again. It’s just the way the NHL is.
“But you have to use these practices when you can, when you do have the energy to go to your benefit. You need to be able to work on things. You need to improve to get better.’’