VOORHEES, N.J. – The Carter Hart “maintenance day’’ mystery was partially solved on Saturday when the Flyers goalie returned to practice.
The “mystery’’ was generated by Thursday’s decision to hold Hart out of a regularly scheduled training camp session and sit him out for Friday night’s preseason game at Washington.
If there were any health issues beyond the usual “bumps and bruises,’’ Hart was not of a mind to discuss them.
“It felt good, nice to get back with all the boys,’’ was all Hart would say after the workout. “Preseason is wrapped up now, we’ve got a week of practice to get ready for Friday (the season opener) and we’re looking forward to it. . .get all the kinks out, working on the details of our game.’’
It’s a sure thing Hart’s teammates were pleased to have him back, pretty much ensuring he will be ready for the opener at the Wells Fargo Center.
“From the start of training camp, he’s come in at pretty top shape,’’ Cam Atkinson said. “Even on the ice and the games he’s played, he looked sharp. So it’s good to have him out there.’’
Hart appeared in only two of the Flyers’ six preseason games and played in a total of five periods, allowing just two goals over that playing time.
“I think he goes about his business the right way,’’ Atkinson said. “He’s got some ‘swags’ that I like. Obviously I’ve only played against him and heard nothing but great things. Want to get to know him on a more personal level. He’s a great kid and comes ready to work every single day. I’m excited to go to battle with him.’’
Added Scott Laughton: “We’re excited to see what he brings. He looks really good in practice.
>Hayes skates for first time
Center Kevin Hayes, who underwent abdominal surgery last month (his second operation on that injury of the offseason), skated for the first time on Saturday. He skated with three other injured players — Egor Zamula, Zayde Wisdom and Cooper Zech – prior to the regular team workout session.
“It’s good,’’ Laughton said. “Hayes has been around the group and kind of interacting with us.’’
The timeline for Hayes’ return was supposed to be about a month after the operation. But general manager Chuck Fletcher suggested on Thursday the return date could be moved up a bit if Hayes continues to improve.
>Penalty kill a work in progress
Atkinson and Laughton agreed the Flyers’ penalty kill is still a work in progress. But with the better part of a week to practice it before Vancouver, there should be enough time to make corrections.
“It’s training camp and these preseason games, you’re kind of getting a feel for the new guys,’’ Atkinson said. “You get back into the systems and the new stuff we’re trying to incorporate. It’s not always going to be perfect. All you can do is continue to get better and improve. If anything, it’s kind of good to get exposed a little bit during preseason games just to work on the little things we need to get better at. There’s only way to go and that’s up. But we’ll be fine.’’
The Flyers finished next to last in NHL rankings last season so there’s a lot of room for improvement.
“We’re trying some new stuff up ice and we’re still working through that,’’ Laughton said. “We’re just trying to get on the same page. I know I wasn’t good enough on the kill in the preseason. But we are communicating and I think we will be better this year.’’
As anticipated, the Flyers assigned No. 3 goaltender Felix Sandstrom to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Saturday afternoon.