As Hart gets two straight, Tortorella says Flyers ‘not going to lose sight' of Ersson

As Hart gets two straight, Tortorella says Flyers ‘not going to lose sight' of Ersson originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

VOORHEES, N.J. — When the Flyers host the Penguins on Monday night, Carter Hart will start in consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 7-9.

That's notable considering the Flyers had utilized a rotation in net over the previous eight games. It seemingly gave the the Flyers a good and desired balance. Samuel Ersson stayed busy and played well, while Hart wasn't overworked as he returned from an undisclosed illness. Both goalies benefited and were reliable for the Flyers.

Does giving Hart a second straight nod mean the Flyers are ready to hand him more of a No. 1 workload again?

"Ersson has played well," head coach John Tortorella said Monday at morning skate. "We're not going to lose sight of Ers. We haven't even gone past this game; we just decided to come back with Carter this game, then we'll make our decision after. But we're not going to lose Ers."

The Flyers have clearly been cautious with Hart over the span of about a month. The 25-year-old experienced weight loss as he needed answers regarding an illness he had dealt with "for a while." Because of the illness and the holiday break, Hart made just one start in a stretch of 19 days.

From Dec. 12-21, the Flyers rode Ersson for five consecutive starts. He won three of the five games and lost only once in regulation. The 24-year-old rookie appreciated the rhythm of starting.

"Very much," Ersson said Monday after morning skate. "You want to play as much as you can, that's part of the job, is playing games. I just love every second. I know, for me, I'm still trying to prove myself in the league, so every chance I get is huge."

Carter Hart, Samuel Ersson
Carter Hart, Samuel Ersson

Perhaps inadvertently, the Flyers' decisions didn't exactly help Ersson at the start of the regular season. His season debut came in the Flyers' fifth game. It was his first game action in 19 days. Prior to his first start, his last appearance was in the Flyers' fifth preseason game, when he faced only 14 shots.

Ersson struggled out of the gate, surrendering 12 goals on 50 shots in his first two starts. He received some Bronx cheers — which Tortorella labeled as "bulls--t" — in a 7-4 loss to the Ducks at the Wells Fargo Center.

But Ersson didn't make excuses as he dealt with the reality of being a backup: less playing time. He adjusted with the help of goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh.

"I've tried to have the mentality that it's up to me to kind of handle those things," Ersson said. "You're going to deal with the mental side of the game, how do I keep myself as ready as I can? I think that led to me working with Dilly and really pushing myself in practice more maybe, trying to get the most value out of every practice and every time I step out on the ice. That's something I think I try to carry with me even if I get more and more game time. Try to utilize every second of practice, as well."

Both Hart and Ersson have given the Flyers a good chance to win. Hart is 4-1-2 with a 2.54 goals-against average and .917 save percentage over his last eight games. Ersson has gone 9-3-2 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in his last 14 games.

"The guys have been playing very well in front of us," Ersson said. "I think you can see the mentality of how we block shots and how guys are sacrificing themselves. I think we're getting a very good trust between the defense and us goalies, kind of like that balance of when to go in shot lanes and block shots, and when to kind of trust us goalies to do our job and let us make the save. I think that is a huge part of when we're having success."

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