SUNRISE, Fla. – Center Nolan Patrick will miss the last three games of the Flyers’ road trip with an undisclosed upper-body injury suffered Thursday, causing Jordan Weal to return to the lineup Saturday night in Florida.
Weal, who has three goals and four assists in 22 games, centered Oskar Lindblom and Michael Raffl during Friday’s practice at the BB&T Center, but interim coach Scott Gordon said he wasn’t sure if that would be the line’s makeup Saturday.
“I’m going to sleep on it and go from there,” he said.
Weal is eager to return to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 15. He has played in just two games this month.
“In December, I haven’t been in many games, but the team’s been playing well,” Weal said.
Sitting out for long stretches and trying to get back into the flow without showing rust, Weal said, “is probably one of the toughest things in hockey…I just have to take it one shift at a time. Simplify things and get pucks in. Get pucks low and go to work from there, and the rest will start coming.”
Added Weal: “A lot of the things during the season are reactionary because you’ve been playing so many games and you know where everyone is, so it’s just a matter of getting into that vibe. I get to play with some good players, so I just have to use them, get pucks in and play to our strengths."
Having played under Gordon when he coached the AHL’s Phantoms, Weal said, gives him a level of comfort.
“Gordo was really good for us down in Allentown,” Weal said. "We had a really good team when I was there and he really keeps everyone accountable, keeps everyone in line, and that’s all you can ask for from a coach. I think that’s why we had so much success down there. No one was going away from the team (concept) and the team’s systems.”
Weal has been on a lines with Lindblom or Raffl, but all three have not been together in a game.
“But there’s definitely a lot of familiarity with us,” said Weal, who scored the game-winning shootout goal as the Flyers defeated Florida, 6-5, on Oct. 16.
Raffl was goal-less in his first 20 games, but has goals in each of the last two contests, including Thursday’s wild 6-5 overtime loss to Tampa Bay.
“Wealsy should be fired up and I’m sure he’ll be excited to get out there," Raffl said. “It’s going to be good, I think.”
Gordon said rookie goaltender Carter Hart, who is 2-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .904 save percentage, would make his fourth start in the matchup with the Panthers. It will be the first road start of his young career.
“One of my buddies plays there, Mark Pysyk. He works out at the gym I work out at in the summer, so I’ve known him for a fair amount of years. It’ll be fun to play," Hart said.
Hart spent Christmas Eve with Claude Giroux and his wife, and Christmas with Dale Weise and his family, along with Weal. “Just to be around families around Christmas, it was really nice of them to open up their homes,” Hart said.
With a little under eight minutes left in Thursday’s second period, Patrick was injured when he collided with Ondrej Palat in front of the net. Gordon said he expected him to be sidelined at least four or five days, which means he will miss road games in Florida, Carolina, and Nashville. … Gordon said he wasn’t alarmed by Patrick’s pedestrian numbers (five goals, six assists) in his second season. A lot of players who are drafted No. 2 overall “usually go to teams that don’t have the offensive players we have here,” Gordon said. “So he probably loses a little opportunity (for more minutes) on the power play. To me, what I like is his defensive play, which ultimately is going to lead to more offensive opportunities.” ... The Flyers are 1-1 against the Panthers this season, winning a 6-5 shootout and dropping a 2-1 decision.