Hart practices, cleared to play for road trip

Carter Hart

      That sound you heard originating from the practice rink in the Flyers Training Center on Tuesday was a collective sigh of relief when No. 79 hit the ice.

      Goaltender Carter Hart, who had to leave Friday night’s game at Carolina with an upper-body injury after a big-time collision with the Hurricanes’ Seth Jarvis, took part in a full practice at Voorhees, N.J.

      The Flyers are keeping pretty tight-lipped about his condition but the very fact Hart was practicing just four days after the incident would seem to rule out the possibility of a concussion.

      Coach John Tortorella confirmed Hart, who had three valuable Christmas break days to recover, will be ready for Thursday night’s game at San Jose, the first of a three-game West Coast road trip.

      “I talked to him over the break each day,’’ Tortorella said. “Today, he doesn’t seem to have any problems at all.’’

      In what looks like a possible precautionary measure, the Flyers did keep second backup goalie Samuel Ersson around for Tuesday’s workout. Tortorella said he isn’t sure if he will take all three goalies for at least the start of the road trip.

      The Flyers did not make Hart available for any comments after practice.

      Ersson, making his NHL debut (due to an illness to regular backup Felix Sandstrom) got lit up for five goals in the Carolina game, resulting in Tortorella pulling him in favor of Hart. Not too long after, Hart suffered the injury. Ersson returned to action and blanked the high-powered Hurricanes in the third period.

      “I really liked his third period,’’ Tortorella said, mindful that his team rallied from a 6-2 deficit to get within 6-5. “He gave us a chance. In a tough situation for him, as far as being taken out. . .Carter gets hurt and him coming back in. I thought he was really good in the third period, gave us an opportunity.’’

      Ersson had been posting some good numbers with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and there is some thought he might have NHL potential with the Flyers or some other team in the future.

      “I thought he handled himself really well,’’ Tortorella said. “I think he’s a confident guy. I think he believes he’s a really good goalie, based on (training camp). He was probably our best goalie in training camp. I’m happy for him because I don’t think we played that well in front of him. I don’t think it went really well for him before I took him out. I didn’t want to scar him too much. I like how it all worked out.”

      >Shorthanded situations improving

      The Flyers picked up shorthanded goals from Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny the other night to give the team six for the season, tied for 16th in the NHL.

      Laughton is tied for second in the league with three.

      Tortorella said it’s something he and assistant coach Brad Shaw have been working on.

      The feeling seems to be the team should be proactive on the penalty kill and look for opportunities to score when the chances present themselves.

      “Shaw is always preaching that,’’ Tortorella said. “When you’re preaching to go after it offensively, you’re also preaching being aggressive in the zone when you have the opportunity.

      “A big part of penalty killing is taking opportunities when they’re there, to be aggressive. Especially ‘Laughts’ and ‘TK,’ they just seem to have a little chemistry together. When we’ve had some opportunities, guys have scored some goals. The last game they gave us a chance to crawl back in it.’’

      Tortorella has been experimenting on the penalty kill. It’s a first for Konecny this year. Tony DeAngelo also is seeing some time with the man advantage. The coach said that can help when five-on-five play resumes.

      “I think it helps Tony just to keep him in the game,’’ Tortorella said. “It’s a worry of mine when I sit guys, like Kevin Hayes, a big guy sitting for two minutes. He’s a big man and he’s not on the ice. Just get him (DeAngelo) on the ice and to work on reacting and being aggressive is very important for a player.’’

      >Fourth line evaluation

      Tortorella sounds satisfied with the work he’s been getting from his fourth line of Patrick Brown, Nic Deslauriers and Zack MacEwen.

      “I think the thing we look for (from) them is their forechecking,’’ Tortorella said. “To get it in, to change momentum. To keep a puck offensively, to bang. Brown and Nic are killing penalties, which is important for fourth-line guys. I think we need to see a little more consistency. They’ve been up and down recently but when they’re on, they give us some juice.’’

      After the Sharks game, the Flyers head to Los Angeles for a Saturday afternoon/New Year’s Eve game against the Kings, then visit Anaheim on Monday night.

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About Wayne Fish 2338 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.