The Flyers’ playoff hopes and Carter Hart’s success are linked. So there had to be concern among some players and management when the 21-year-old goalie had to leave an intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday in Voorhees with apparent back spasms.
The Flyers had no update on Hart’s condition and whether it was a serious injury, saying that the NHL says they can acknowledge only that he left the ice.
Coronavirus regulations have made it virtually impossible to get information on players’ injuries or illnesses. The NHL has basically muzzled its teams
NBC Sports Philadelphia, however, said Hart had minor back spasms.
Hart was scheduled to do a virtual conference call with reporters Tuesday, but it was canceled.
“I didn’t see what happened. I didn’t realize he had left until someone on the bench said it,” said center Kevin Hayes, who had three goals in the scrimmage.
“I think it’s nothing too serious. Obviously it’s important to get in shape and get game-ready, but if you have something that’s minor that you don’t want to push, it’s not a big deal to get off the ice like that. We’d rather have him be 100 percent than pushing hard and being like 85 or 90 percent. It’s probably a smart decision by him and I don’t think it’s anything major.”
Hart, who is in his first full NHL season, made a long stretch to make a save early in the scrimmage, but he remained in the game until later in the opening period.
“He’s obviously a big part of our team; he’s a good young goalie,” center Sean Couturier said. “But let’s not forget we have Moose here, a great veteran with a lot of experience. He’s been great for us all year.”
Couturier was referring to backup goalie Brian Elliott, 35, who has played in 45 career playoff games. Elliott (16-7-4) had a 2.87 GAA and .899 save percentage this season, but those numbers were inflated by a few poor outings, and he generally had a solid year.
While Hart missed nine games with a lower-abdominal injury in the second half of the season, Elliott kept the Flyers afloat, compiling a 5-1-1 record with a 2.06 GAA and .916 save percentage. (Alex Lyon went 1-1 in the other two games that Hart was sidelined.)
During the season, Hart went 24-13-3 with a 2.42 goals-against average, which was eighth-best in the NHL, and a .914 save percentage.
“Whoever’s in net, I think this year we’ve showed we’re a good team and I don’t see anything different here,” Couturier said.
Hart was brilliant in his last 11 regular-season appearances after returning from his injury, going 9-2 with a .934 save percentage.
Hart (Team Orange) and Elliott (Team Black) were shaky in Tuesday’s scrimmage. The score was 3-3 late in the first period when Hart had to exit. The teams played three 25-minute periods with a running clock.
The Orange defeated the Black, 7-6, on Claude Giroux’s overtime goal, his second tally of the game. Hayes, centering a line that had Travis Konecny (goal) and James van Riemsdyk, had a hat trick for the Black.
The Flyers will practice Wednesday and then have another intrasquad scrimmage Thursday. They will not be on the ice Friday, then will have their final camp session Saturday before heading to Toronto, the Eastern Conference’s hub city, on Sunday.
They have an exhibition game against Pittsburgh in Toronto on July 28, and their first game in the round-robin tournament is Aug. 2 against Boston.
The Flyers are carrying four goalies in camp: Hart, Elliott, Lyon, and Kirill Ustimenko. When they travel to Toronto, they will be able to carry 31 players on the roster, and it is likely they will have all four goalies on it.