Nolan Patrick's upper-body injury that forced him out of Thursday's game in Tampa could likely keep the Flyers' second-year center off the ice for the remainder of the road trip.
Patrick's day-to-day injury has a timetable of at least four or five days, according to head coach Scott Gordon.
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The more pressing concern regarding Patrick has been a complete lack of production. From Oct. 20 to Nov. 10, Patrick played his best hockey of the season, scoring nine points (five goals, four assists) in a 10-game span.
Since then, Patrick has produced just two assists in his last 18 games, a dramatic drop-off that Gordon doesn't seem too concerned about.
"I think you got to realize that points for guys that are first- or second-round picks usually go to teams that don't have the offensive players we have here," Gordon said. "To me, what I like is the defensive play, which will eventually lead to more offensive opportunities. For me, I like that piece. That piece is going to stay with him."
Now 106 games into his NHL career, Patrick seems to be perfectly suited to a third-line center role, which means ice time in the 13-15 minute range with very little power play time.
For Saturday's game against the Panthers, Jordan Weal will step in to fill Patrick's role, centering a line with Oskar Lindblom and Michael Raffl.
Weal has been idle for the longest stretch of hockey in his Flyers career. He has been a healthy scratch in 10 of the Flyers' previous 12 games. In his last game on Dec. 15, he saw a season-low 7:58 TOI.
"It's probably one of the tougher things in hockey - to take a month there and only play two games and come back in the lineup," Weal said.
Hart to start against Panthers
As part of Gordon's plan to work in both goaltenders, Carter Hart will earn his first start of the Flyers' five-game road trip Saturday in Florida.
It will be Hart's first game action in a week coming off the Christmas break. Gordon considered playing the 20-year-old rookie Sunday at Madison Square Garden, but thought the workload could have been too much with six games (including two in Lehigh Valley) over a ten-day period.
Saturday's game at the BB&T Center will also mark Hart's first NHL game on the road. Hart said the Christmas break came at the right time with a much needed break. He stayed in Philadelphia, going to Claude Giroux's house for Christmas Eve and then to Dale Weise's home on Christmas.
"Right now, the group that we have is fun to be a part of," Hart said. "I don't want to go anywhere. I want to stay here. Obviously, that's my goal and I'm going to do everything I can to stay here."
Gordon seems to be comfortable with the tandem of Hart and Michal Neuvirth as he had no definitive timetable regarding the injury to Brian Elliott.
"I said to Neuvy after the game, it doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but that was a pretty good six-goal performance. For me, he gave us a chance to get the two points," Gordon said.
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