VOORHEES, N.J. – As bad as the Flyers were last season, you probably couldn’t put too much of the blame on Carter Hart.
Some say the goaltender did not experience one of his better seasons but look at it this way: The Flyers were an ugly collective minus-87 but Hart still had a goals-against average under 3.00 heading into March (he finished 3.16).
His .905 save percentage wasn’t anything to write home about but considering the Flyers finished firmly in the Metropolitan Division basement, that number really wasn’t all that bad.
The big thing for Hart right now is his health. He missed the final two weeks of last season with an injury and has been sidelined again during this preseason.
It would be helpful if he got into at least one preseason game. “I’m feeling better, last few days feel better on the ice,’’ Hart said after Friday’s practice at the Flyers Training Centr. “I’m hoping to play one of these last few games before the regular season starts. It would be nice to get into a game here.’’
Added coach John Tortorella: “The biggest thing for us is to try to get him healthy and ready for the regular season.’’
The backup goalie job is pretty much up for grabs between rookies Felix Sandstrom and Samuel Ersson, along with veteran Troy Grosenick.
Hart kind of let the cat out of the bag about the candidate with the best chance.
“I’m looking forward to playing alongside Felix this year,’’ Hart said. “That will be fun.’’
Sandstrom showed some promise last season with the Flyers and hasn’t done anything to hurt his position on the depth chart this preseason.
“He (Sandstrom) is a good goalie, he works hard,’’ Hart said. “I think it’s important that we push each other in practice to be better. That’s what you want in a goalie partner. I think we will get along really well.’’
As for Ersson, Hart has been impressed.
“The game action that I’ve seen him play, he’s played well, he looks calm in the net,’’ Hart said. “I think this is his first preseason action with the Flyers so he’s come in and done a good job.’’
Ersson and Sandstrom are friends and countrymen. In fact, they live on the same block back home in Sweden.
Like Hart, Ersson is coming off an injury and making up for lost time. He’s played in the third periods of a couple preseason games and has looked as calm as ever.
“I think my game is a little bit ahead of what I thought it would be,’’ Ersson said.
It should be noted Ersson was in the “main group’’ at practice on Friday, meaning he’s got a chance to make the Flyers’ roster.
“It’s a good feeling,’’ he said. “Obviously they like what you’ve been doing and what they’ve seen. But at the same point I’m in no rush. I know even if I don’t make the team right now, I have two years left on my entry level contract. I have to come back from this injury and play a lot of games this year. That’s my main goal.’’
>Looks like no captain this season
Tortorella said it’s likely the Flyers will start the season without naming a captain.
For a team with a rich tradition of captains – from Bob Clarke to Dave Poulin to Eric Lindros – Tortorella’s statement was a bit of an eye-opener.
“Right now I don’t think I’m even going to have a captain,’’ Tortorella said. “There won’t be a captain once the season starts. To me, that’s so far away, I really haven’t thought too much about it.’’
>Addressing second period woes
The Flyers lost a lot of games with bad performances in the second period of matches last year and Tortorella admits it’s an area which has to be addressed.
“I know there were second period problems last year,’’ he said. “I know we had a really good first period (against the Caps on Wednesday night in a 3-1 loss in Philly) and then we fell off the cliff. It was a tired camp. That’s why I gave them off yesterday.’’
>Working with York
Tortorella said he’s been working with defenseman Cam York, generally regarded as a third-pair backliner, on a variety of things.
“Everything,’’ Tortorella said. “He puts himself into a jam because he has so much ability. He has so many good things going for him. He’s going to go through a process with this staff – for us asking for it (best effort) now. Why wait? I’m not being negative here. I have my eye on him. Because there are so many good things that can come out of him. But we want it now.’’
>Roster cuts made
The Flyers reduced their roster to 45 players on Friday by sending 18 players to their Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL) team and placing two on waivers for the purpose of assigning them to the Allentown-based team.
The following players have been sent to the Phantoms:
Forwards – Jordy Bellerive, Elliot Desnoyers, Jacob Gaucher, Charlie Gerard, Alex Kile, Tye McSorley, Cal O’Reilly, Garrett Wilson, Zayde Wisdom.
Defensemen – Colin Felix, Linus Hogberg, Will MacKinnon, Mason Millman, Wyatte Wylie, Cooper Zech
Goaltenders – Jonathan Lemieux, Nolan Maier, Tyler Wall
In addition, Philadelphia forwards Isaac Ratcliffe and Linus Sandin have been placed on waivers for the purpose of assigning them to its AHL squad.