TAMPA – Rookie goalie Carter Hart won’t be thrown to the wolves, uh, the powerful Tampa Bay Lightning.
Instead, the Flyers will use veteran Michal Neuvirth against the best-in-the-NHL Lightning on Thursday night at Amalie Arena.
Neuvirth is coming off an impressive 3-2 shootout win Sunday over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It was just his third appearance of the season.
“It’s a good opportunity for Neuvy,” interim coach Scott Gordon said after Thursday’s morning skate. “He’s coming off a solid game against New York, and also at the same time, giving Carter an opportunity to get some work in at practice. Just trying to give him a situation that’s more favorable – as opposed to being off for four days and then coming in here.”
Hart will likely start in Florida on Saturday against the Panthers.
Tampa, which is averaging a league-best 4.08 goals per game, is on an 11-0-1 run.
“They’re a good team, but they’ve been beaten this year, too. Right?” Flyers winger Travis Konecny said. “We’re not just looking at them like they’re this unstoppable, super team. We know we have a good team here and we’re building a consistent game here. We just have to keep it going tonight. They’re definitely going to be a great challenge for us, but I’m looking at the positive side. I’m not going in beaten already, you know. I’m coming in looking at it that we’re going to give them a good run here.”
The Flyers dropped a 6-5 overtime decision to Tampa earlier this season. They overcame a late 5-1 deficit and scored four straight goals – two by Konecny – to force OT.
The Lightning has scored four or more goals in seven straight games.
About half the Flyers traveled from Philadelphia to Tampa on Thursday morning. They got off a plane late Thursday morning and headed to Amalie Arena for their morning skate, prepping for tonight’s matchup.
How tough will that be on the players?
“Can I let you know after [the game]?” Gordon cracked.
“I did it plenty of time in junior on a bus, so it’s no big deal,” said Konecny, one of the players who traveled Thursday.
The other half of the players traveled to Tampa on Wednesday night and apparently paid their own way. League rules mandated they couldn’t practice or travel with the team on Wednesday, the last day of the holiday break.