Flyers going with Michal Neuvirth against potent Tampa; Travis Konecny says Lightning isn’t unstoppable
The Flyers return from a holiday break and hit the ice against the Stanley Cup favorite.
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.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos has 12 goals in December, tying his career high for a month. The Lightning has three games left this month. … The Phantoms named Kerry Huffman their interim head coach for the rest of the season and appointed Terry Murray as an assistant for the remainder of the 2018-19 campaign. … Gordon coached the 5-foot-8, 162-pound Danick Martel with the Phantoms. Martel has played only four games with Tampa and has one assist. “He’s a high-energy guy and has a real passion of the game,” Gordon said. “He finds a way to get his shots, he finds a way to get in on the forecheck, he finds a way to piss people off. For a guy who is his size, he doesn’t play that way.” … Anthony Stolarz is making progress in his rehab, but there is no timetable on when he or Brian Elliott can return. … Samuel Morin traveled with the team and took part in the morning skate. “Soon, they are expecting him to ramp up his on-ice activity, so that’s obviously encouraging,” Gordon said. Morin, who tore his ACL in last season’s AHL playoffs, is expected to be ready to play in February.