Hart returns as surging Flyers host Capitals

The Philadelphia Flyers will attempt to climb back within three points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference when they host the Washington Capitals on Thursday.

The Flyers will turn to rookie goaltender Carter Hart to make his first start since injuring his ankle on Feb. 21 in the pregame warmups before a game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Hart earned the start from interim head coach Scott Gordon despite the fact that Brian Elliott is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts.

"It was good to get back into the game lineup," Hart told reporters. "Even though I wasn't playing, just kind of getting into the rhythm of warming up again, and being around the guys again felt good."

This will be quite a daunting task for Hart against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

"I looked at what was best for Carter as far as routine-wise, as opposed to having to travel and no pregame skate the day of 1/8Friday's game 3/8," Gordon told reporters. "So just from a comfort standpoint, I think it'll probably be easier going through that routine than playing his first game back on the road."

The Flyers (34-27-8, 76 points) remain red hot, going 18-4-2 over their last 24 games. They will have to play for a second game without suspended forward Jakub Voracek, whose appeal of his punishment for a hit on New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk was denied.

"Right now, we're just taking things one game at a time and worrying about what we can control," Hart told reporters. "We can't control how other teams are playing. We just have to worry about what's in this locker room right here.

"I mean, we have the guys and we have the group to do it. We all believe in each other, and I think that's important in this stretch here."

The Capitals (41-22-7, 89 points) continue to lead the Metropolitan Division, but they fell 5-3 on the road to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday after blowing a two-goal lead.

Jakub Vrana scored two goals, John Carlson added one, but it wasn't enough. The biggest news came from Alex Ovechkin, who earned an assist to become the 48th player in NHL history with 1,200 career points.

Goaltender Braden Holtby, who had been quite steady as of late, made 25 saves but couldn't stop the electric Pittsburgh offense.

"I thought we gave this one away, to be honest with you," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom told reporters. "They got one there and they get some energy from that, and they just kept going. That's something we're not happy about."

The Capitals started strong, bolting to a 2-0 advantage, before miscues and turnovers led to a Penguins comeback, and ultimately a victory.

"We know that they play that way," Holtby told reporters. "They don't waste any shots. They don't waste any opportunities. ... Sometimes you just have to stick with it and just came up a little short."

The Capitals had their seven-game winning streak snapped, so they'll travel to Philadelphia looking to open a new set of wins.

"We wanted to get off to a good start, and we did a great job with that," Washington defenseman John Carlson told reporters. "But we've got to be better righting the ship when things don't go your way."

Thursday's game is the second of a four-game road trip for the Capitals.

--Field Level Media
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