VOORHEES, N.J. - The future of Flyers goaltending is finally here, together, in the present.
Carter Hart and Anthony Stolarz will be the 1-2 punch in net coming out of the Flyers' bye week. Hart will start Monday against the Jets and Stolarz on Tuesday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Where it goes from there hasn't been determined.
Hart had a tune-up Saturday in Bridgeport, Connecticut, with the Phantoms and was touched for three goals. He made 32 saves in Lehigh Valley's 4-1 loss to the Sound Tigers, but did he actually need the additional work?
"I don't know," Hart said. "It was good to get out there again and feel some pucks. I think it was important that we got a good practice (Sunday) and shake off some of the rust."
If anything, it was good for Hart to see some old Lehigh Valley teammates, although he doesn't expect to share a locker stall in Allentown again this season, if at all.
Sources close to the organization say Hart will stay with the Flyers for the remainder of the regular season, even though he hasn't been told anything and continues to live out of a hotel close to the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.
"I don't think anybody really would know how this would play out," interim coach Scott Gordon said. "But just handling the pressure of playing in the NHL, coming in at the time of when he came in with a new GM and a new coach, I think he's shown that there's a lot more to him than what he has shown on the ice."
Same can be said regarding Stolarz, who has battled through a lower-body injury he suffered Dec. 15 in Vancouver in the first period of the Flyers' 5-1 loss. The original prognosis was a two-to-four week timetable that turned into six weeks. Stolarz made two rehab starts with the Phantoms, his latest was a 44-save effort last Monday.
"The second game was obviously much better for me just in terms of timing, pace, my patience in the net," Stolarz said. "I felt really good after the second game. They felt it was enough so it was nice to get a couple days off after that and re-charge your body."
On the ice, it's another juggling act for the coaching staff. They'll have to get work for three different goaltenders as Mike McKenna appears to be the odd-man out.
Both McKenna and Stolarz would have to clear waivers to join the Phantoms. The Flyers were successful in sending Stolarz down before the season opener, however, that may be too risky of a move now with teams looking for depth because of injuries.
"I can't look too far into the future but that's the game plan," Gordon said of Hart starting Monday and Stolarz on Tuesday.
It's certainly a game plan a passionate fan base has been waiting for.
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