IRVINE, Calif. — At least now we know what a mid-body injury is.
Flyers goalie Carter Hart will return to game action on Friday night when the Flyers visit the Ducks in Anaheim. The goalie has been out since leaving midway through the first period of a game against Buffalo at Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 1, after Sabres forward Kyle Okposo fell on top of him in the crease.
“Just was trying to get up and he fell on the lower half of my back and just kind of was hurting getting up,” Hart, who tried to stay in the game before eventually departing, said on Thursday after a Flyers off-day practice in Southern California. “Couldn’t really move for a few days, and feel a lot better now.”
He said he started to feel better last weekend, and has been with the team since a flight to San Jose on Sunday. The Flyers are still carrying three goalies, including Samuel Ersson and Cal Petersen.
“Just needed a couple days to just kind of calm down and get back to normal, and feel a lot better now,” Hart said.
According to a league source, the expectation was always that Hart was going to miss about one to two weeks, so his playing on Friday is within that timeline. In eight games this season, Hart is 4-3-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.
Coach John Tortorella called the decision to start Hart against the Ducks “an easy one.”
Hart returning isn’t the only lineup change from Tuesday’s disheartening 2-1 loss to the dreadful Sharks. Morgan Frost will be back in, as well, after he was a healthy scratch for the seventh time in 13 games.
Frost, still without a point in six games, skated on a line with wingers Owen Tippett and Travis Konecny on Thursday.
Tortorella gave just a brief “no” following Tuesday’s game when asked if it was difficult to remove Frost again to make way for Sean Couturier, who returned for the Sharks game after missing two with a lower body injury.
Tortorella clarified that postgame brevity on Thursday.
“I know you asked me the other night, is it easy to sit out Frosty — I just didn’t want to answer the question after a game. I wasn’t too interested,” he said. “It’s always hard to sit someone out.
“Frosty is in a spot where, if he’s not playing in the top six, I don’t have a spot for him. He’s not killing penalties. I’m not going to put him in between (Nic Deslauriers and Garnet Hathaway) because I just don’t think he fits there. … He’s going to play on the power play. He’s going to be put in an offensive situation.”
Offense has been an issue in general lately, as the Flyers have scored just 10 goals in their last five games — with five of those coming in a 5-1 win over the Sabres on Nov. 3. They’ve lost five of six overall (1-5-0).
Consequently, Tortorella and the coaching staff emphasized getting to the front of the net on Thursday. There was a two-on-two drill in which players battled for position near the crease, and later there was a small-area drill in which there was a tight semi-circle spray painted around each goal. Players were not allowed the shoot the puck from outside that boundary.
Lack of finish has been an issue at five-on-five, and also on the power play, which is now 31st in the NHL at just 8.9 percent. The Flyers are 0-for-18 on the power play over their last five games.
“I think we need to simplify,” Tortorella said. “When people that have the puck see their uniform in front of the net, I think that gives them a key to shoot the puck. I think we need to have someone there more often in front of the goalie, and hopefully we’ll generate more shots to it and things will happen from there.”
He continued: “We have generated more offense this year I believe, but (it haas not) paid off, especially the past couple games. We’ve got to get there.”
The other forward lines on Thursday consisted of Couturier centering Cam Atkinson and Tyson Foerster; Noah Cates between Joel Farabee and Bobby Brink, and a fourth line of Deslauriers and Hathaway with either Ryan Poehling or Scott Laughton at center. It’s unclear who will sit against the Ducks.
(Photo of Carter Hart: Len Redkoles / NHLI via Getty Images)