Hart’s injury, aggravated in Wednesday night’s loss to the Sabres, was previously reported but was expected to be longer-term. An official injury designation of day-to-day from the team suggests it may not be as severe as Crossing Broad’s Anthony SanFilippo reported yesterday.
That’s good news for the Flyers, who have cooled off after a hot start and now sit seventh in the Metropolitan Division with a 4-5-1 record. Hart’s play this season has been strong, recording a .913 SV%, 2.52 GAA, and one shutout. He’s on track to have his second straight season above league average after back-to-back disappointing campaigns in 2020-21 and 2021-22.
The Flyers’ goaltending options behind Hart leave much to be desired. Hopes were high for 24-year-old Samuel Ersson entering the season after a strong campaign in the starter’s net for AHL Lehigh Valley, but he hasn’t been up to the task thus far. In two starts, the Swedish netminder has allowed 14 goals on just 59 shots, resulting in a ghastly .763 SV% and 4.91 GAA. Third-string netminder Felix Sandström, who made the Flyers out of camp, had a 3-12-3 record and .880 SV% in 18 starts last season and is currently on a conditioning loan to Lehigh Valley. 29-year-old veteran Calvin Petersen, recalled yesterday to serve as Ersson’s backup while Hart is injured, has just a .884 save percentage in four games with Lehigh Valley to kick off 2023-24.
Meanwhile, more injury trouble is not a positive for Couturier, who’s missed practices this season with a lower-body ailment. It’s unclear whether this is a different injury or a reaggravation of the one that’s been bothering him, but it is a sigh of relief that it’s not related to the back issues that kept him out for the better part of two seasons between 2021 and 2023.
Couturier has been among the Flyers’ best players so far, and the 31-year-old looks like he’s barely missed a step despite playing in just 39 of 174 games since the 2021-22 season began. He hasn’t missed any action this year and ranks fourth on the team in scoring, with two goals, six assists and eight points. Averaging 19:32 per game (which leads all Flyers forwards), he’s sporting a 51% win rate on draws and boasts a Corsi share of 54.7% at even strength.
Notably, Couturier’s injury leaves the Flyers without any healthy scratches on the active roster for tonight’s rematch against the Sabres. It’s unclear who will replace Couturier’s spot on the top line between Owen Tippett and Cam Atkinson. Shutdown center Noah Cates, who has a goal and three assists in ten contests this year, ranks second among Flyers centers in average ice time with 16:02 and seems like the closest chemistry fit for Couturier’s role. That means Scott Laughton could slide back into a third-line position centering Joel Farabee and Bobby Brink, while Ryan Poehling will re-enter the lineup and center the fourth line after serving as a healthy scratch for the last two games.