In a surprise move, veteran goalie Brian Elliott will get the start when the Flyers play Wednesday in Washington and try to trim the Capitals’ first-place lead in the Metropolitan Division.
The Caps have a three-point lead over the second-place Flyers.
Elliott, 34, will be making his first start since Feb. 20, a 4-3 overtime win over Columbus. Carter Hart has started the last four games, and five of the contests during the Flyers’ current six-game winning streak. Overall, he has started seven of the last eight games.
Coach Alain Vigneault said “it wasn’t a hard decision at all" as to which goalie he would use Wednesday.
“We’ve got five back-to-backs left this year," Vigneault said. "Both our goaltenders have played well. Brian has played extremely well in Washington, and we’ve got Carolina waiting for us [Thursday], and they’re another tough opponent that’s in a playoff race with us.”
Added Vigneault: “We’re going to need both our goaltenders, and that’s just the way I felt was best for the team.”
Elliott beat the Caps in Washington, 7-2, on Feb. 8, making 25 saves. Hart is 1-0-1 against Washington this season — both games were at the Wells Fargo Center — with a 1.45 goals-against-average and .953 save percentage.
Hart, 21, has been superb since returning from an abdominal strain on Feb. 10, compiling a 7-1 record with a 2.14 GAA and .923 save percentage.
Hart has struggled on the road, but has won two of his last three decisions away from home ice.
“We have a lot of confidence in both goaltenders,” said Vigneault, adding Hart will start Thursday against visiting Carolina.
Overall, Elliott is 15-7-4 with a 2.90 GAA and .899 save percentage, and Hart is 22-12-3 with a 2.51 GAA and .909 save percentage.
Third-line center Derek Grant has made a favorable impression on Vigneault in the three games he has played with the Flyers since being acquired from Anaheim.
“I think he’s learning how we play, and I really like his overall game,” Vigneault said. “Without the puck, he’s in good position, he’s got a good stick, and he’s playing the percentages. And with the puck, that line has had some good looks.”
Grant, who had a goal and an assist in Sunday’s 5-3 win over the Rangers, has been centering James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Pitlick. He also has been used on the penalty kill.
“Derek’s fit in real well on that line five-on-five,” Vigneault said, “and he’s fit in real well in killing [penalties].”
Grant, 29, has a career-high 15 goals, including 14 with the Ducks.