A crystal ball wasn’t needed to know this day might be coming.
Still, the news on Tuesday that Flyers goaltender Carter Hart requested an indefinite leave of absence due to personal reasons sent a bit of a shockwave through the organization.
Flyers general manager Daniel Briere granted the request and said the club will have no further comment at this time.
At the morning skate in Voorhees, N.J., head coach John Tortorella said Samuel Ersson would start Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marks Ersson’s second straight start, an unusual occurrence this season when Hart is healthy, which Tortorella confirmed he is.
So far, there has been no confirmation that Hart’s request has anything to do with his possible involvement with an incident which took place six years ago at the World Junior Championships.
Throughout this season, Hart has been in the media crosshairs due to his rumored involvement in the 2018 World Juniors incident in which five members of Team Canada have been accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a hotel room following a fundraising event that summer.
The incident was investigated by local police (London, Ontario) and the following year the charges were dropped.
However, the investigation was reopened in 2022.
Hart has refused to comment on the NHL’s part in the investigation. According to several media reports, Hart is cooperating with the investigation.
The Flyers called up veteran goalie Cal Petersen to serve as Ersson’s backup for the Tampa game.
>Brink headed to Phantoms to work on defense
More than a few eyebrows were raised on Monday afternoon when the Flyers announced they were sending rookie right wing Bobby Brink back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Brink lasted more than half the season with the NHL team and posted decent numbers. In 38 games, he has scored seven goals and added 11 assists for 18 points with plus-7.
To fill Brink’s roster spot, the Flyers called up forward Olle Lycksell from their AHL affiliate for Tuesday night’s game against Tampa. In 33 games with the Phantoms, the 24-year-old Swede registered 16 goals/28 points. He also played one game with the Flyers earlier this season.
Brink hadn’t scored since Dec. 31 at Calgary and wasn’t generating a whole lot of good scoring chances.
“He leveled out here, he wasn’t receiving much ice time,” coach John Tortorella said at the morning skate in Voorhees, N.J. “He was in and out of the lineup (scratched the previous two games). It’s not good for his development, so he’s going to go down there and play a ton of minutes.”
There’s a chance Brink will return but for now the Flyers are relatively healthy, so there’s not a great need for call-ups.
Tortorella put a positive spin on the transaction.
“Practice habits, how he handles himself, (play) away from the puck, everything that a young man has to go through the process does,” Tortorella said. “I don’t consider this a negative. . .this is a good thing. We have Lehigh right down the street, he gets to play a lot more minutes and develop on a team that’s fighting to get in (the playoffs).
“It’s not going to be all NHL games when you’re going through the process. That American (Hockey) League is a very good place to be when you’re developing.”
One thing Brink does have to work on is the checking side of the game. He’s not the biggest player (5-foot 8, 169 pounds) out there so he has to be quick with his stick and so forth.
“It’s anticipating when to start back (on defense),” the coach said. “When to get above your check, how you check – are you checking on the right side of the body or the wrong side.
“I think sometimes young players think check means ‘I’m just going to go to the guy.’ But you’re trying to stop a play when you’re checking. You’re trying to get your stick on the puck. You’re just trying to move your legs so the next guy can pick it off.”
The last thing Tortorella wanted to do was curb Brink’s enthusiasm, which is why a move to Lehigh Valley can be helpful. There he can feel like he’s a bigger part of the game’s outcome, rather than performing on the periphery.
“It’s teaching him how to play away from the puck,” Tortorella said. “He’s been inconsistent to the point where we felt ours were playing better. We cannot afford to have him sitting (he’s averaging about 14 minutes per game). He needs to go down (to Lehigh Valley) and learn the checking part of it.”
Meanwhile, the Flyers want to get a look at Lycksell, who has shown some promise.
“I watched him in practice (when he was briefly with the Flyers) and he wasn’t as stiff,” Tortorella said. “His skating was better. He just seemed more free. He said he felt more comfortable with the players. He’s gotten to know them better. I want to see if he can bring us some offense. I don’t want him to play safe. I want him to try to make some plays and I’m hoping he’s confident enough to make more plays.”
Lycksell wants to make the most of this opportunity.
“Hopefully I get some more minutes out there,” he said. “Play my game that I play in the AHL and see how far I can go. I’ve been getting more time up here and getting to know everyone. That’s when I feel I can play my best hockey.”
>Tippett still on hold
Tortorella said all he knows is that Owen Tippett, who suffered a lower-body injury in Saturday’s 7-4 loss to Colorado, remains “day-to-day.” Tippett was not scheduled to play in Tuesday night’s game against Colorado. “I’m not trying to be coy,” Tortorella said. “That (day-to-day) is what he is.”