The Flyers are in the homestretch of Phase 3 workouts in Voorhees. Just a scrimmage on Thursday and a group session on Saturday remain before the team finalizes the roster going to the hub city of Toronto and makes the trip on Sunday.
Of course, the main story at Flyers camp remains the absence of Carter Hart. After leaving Tuesday’s scrimmage, Hart was among four players deemed “unable to participate” for Wednesday’s practice. Hart was joined by fellow netminder Kirill Ustimenko and forward Connor Bunnaman as absentees from Wednesday’s practice. Sean Couturier also missed practice, but was out for personal reasons. His wife is giving birth to the couple’s first child.
As has been the case throughout Phase 3 and will be for the remainder of the season, injury updates are limited. Still, Alain Vigneault offered his thoughts on the players absent, notably Hart.
“Any player missing any time in practice at this time, especially after the layoff that we’ve had sets him back a little bit,” Vigneault said. “Obviously it depends on the amount of time. He’ll have to do a little bit of extra work when he is capable of coming back.
“We’re not allowed to comment but I would say to you that I’m not concerned.”
Many of the players offered the same sentiments on Tuesday, and it was reported by Colby Cohen of NBC Sports Philadelphia that Hart was dealing with minor back spasms and that it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hart back on the ice in a matter of days.
In the meantime, though, the Flyers have to be prepared in the event that Hart can’t play. In the immediate, the Flyers have Brian Elliott at the ready. Elliott had a solid day at camp in the spotlight and Vigneault noted that the Flyers will likely need him at some point.
“He’s looked good. He’s come in here with a good mindset. Obviously because of the long layoff and the limited amount of ice time for a goaltender they can get, you always wonder how they are going to come in, but Brian’s looked good,” Vigneault said. “Every day I feel he’s working extremely hard, he’s spending a lot of time with Kim, our goalie coach, and he’s going to be ready. There’s no doubt he’s been a big part of our team. At some point we’re going to need him in these playoffs and he’s going to obviously play well for us.”
Of course, Hart is still the Flyers future and he’s as much the present as anyone on the roster. Vigneault plans to use both goalies in the Round Robin to get a feel for a proper rotation and has confidence in the tandem.
“I do believe that Carter, the way he played throughout the year and how he improved throughout the season has earned the right to start in the playoffs. That being said though we have four games until then. There’s no doubt that Brian is going to play in those four games,” Vigneault said. “In my mind right now, Carter is the guy, but you never know what is going to happen. Carter’s a young goaltender. A lot of young guys have stepped in. Because they’ve played big games in their league prior to this, they have just stepped in and picked off exactly where they were. Carter, we believe, can do that, but I do think that the experience of Brian gives us a great tandem. Whoever we put in goal they’re going to do a great job for us. That’s what both our goaltenders have done for us all year long.”
"I’ve felt kind of better and better each day. Today I felt really good," Elliott said. "It’s just getting back that competitiveness and battle level, things like that. I think we’ve done a good job of trying to ramp things up and getting a little bit more systems, little more special teams today. That’s good for us because we get to look through bodies, look through screens and try to really react to just play the game. That is what’s fun about goaltending. Sometimes it gets a little much where you got guys coming down and just shooting on you. Now we’re getting into game situations where it’s a little more fun for us."
While the roster has not been finalized yet, Vigneault said that those decisions would be made by Saturday and the roster heading to Toronto will be announced then.
There is a possible surprise on the Flyers postseason roster. On Wednesday, the Flyers announced a three-year, $9 million contract extension for Oskar Lindblom.
Lindblom’s contract was set to expire after this season and it’s no surprise that he remains a big part of the Flyers future. But could he be a part of the present too? GM Chuck Fletcher spoke to the media and expressed hope that Lindblom could join his teammates in the hub city of Toronto and, if he did, he would be eligible to practice and play in a game.
“He has been cleared by his oncologist and by the medical team that worked with him and by our medical team to start resuming activities and to train and to skate," Fletcher said. "He’s getting stronger all the time. At the right time, he will absolutely will be able to participate with our group.
“I don’t know what’s out of the question. I certainly wouldn’t put any limits on Oskar. We obviously will do everything we can to protect him, but he’s looking forward to restarting his life and his career. Whatever that means, we’ll find out. We’ll work very closely with his medical team, our medical team and we’ll make the right decisions for him.”