Flyers hope practice pulls G Hart out of season-long funk

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault wants Carter Hart to devote his full focus on practicing rather than playing, in hopes of pulling the starting goalie out of a season-long funk.

Vigneault ruled out Hart for the Flyers’ two-game series at Buffalo opening Monday night, saying the plan is for the goalie to spend at least the next three days working exclusively on his game both during and after practice.

The process began Sunday in Philadelphia and continued during the team’s brief pregame skate in Buffalo on Monday.

“This is not a rest day for Carter. This is a work day for him,” Vigneault said.

“I’ve had a good conversation with him and Kim about my expectations about his practice habits and him stopping the puck,” he added, referring to goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh. “He needs to work on his game. He needs to work harder. He needs to work better.”

Brian Elliott will start on Monday, with Alex Lyon serving as the backup.

Vigneault wouldn’t provide a timetable for Hart’s next start, but he is hoping to take advantage of a light schedule this week, when the Flyers enjoy a two-day break after playing the Sabres on Wednesday. Their schedule then tightens, with the team playing six games in nine days, beginning Sunday at the New York Islanders.

Hart’s numbers have ballooned during his third NHL season. He is 8-9-3 in 22 appearances, has been pulled five times and has allowed four or more goals 12 times.

The focus on practice comes after Hart gave up five goals on 11 shots and was pulled 2:08 into the second period of an 8-3 loss Thursday to the New York Rangers. In his past six appearances, Hart has allowed 26 goals on 284 points.

Hart went 40-26-4 in his first two seasons and made his first postseason appearance, going 9-5 with a 2.23 goals-against average in 2019-20.

The Flyers followed an 11-4-3 start to the season by going 5-9-1 in their past 15 games and dropping into fifth place in the East Division standings.

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