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Cup Qualifiers Buzz: Hart to start first round-robin game for Flyers - NHL.com

Cup Qualifiers Buzz: Hart to start first round-robin game for Flyers - NHL.com
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Goalie Carter Hart will start for the Flyers against the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, in their first game of the round-robin Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS).,

Hart made 11 saves while playing the first two periods of Philadelphia s 3-2 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in an exhibition game Tuesday. Brian Elliott made 13 saves in the third period and overtime.

"I thought yesterday both our goaltenders played well," coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday. "Carter played the first two periods, had a few key saves to make and he made them. When Brian came in, I thought he looked real strong, he looked big in goal and made some big saves at the right time. I m really comfortable with our goaltending right now."

Vigneault said Elliott will play at least one game during the round-robin. The Flyers will play the Washington Capitals on Aug. 6 and Tampa Bay Lightning on Aug. 8. The round-robin will set the seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference. -- Adam Kimelman

Darcy Kuemper will start for the Coyotes against the Vegas Golden Knights in an exhibition game in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, Thursday (10 p.m. ET; NHLN, NHL.TV, FS-A PLUS).

"Kuemper will get the start and Antti Raanta will get in there, too," coach Rick Tocchet said. "We don t know the exact minutes each will play ... we ll determine that [Wednesday], but we ll go [Kuemper] and then [Raanta]."

That could put Kuemper in line to start Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Nashville Predators at Rogers Place on Sunday. Tocchet said Monday that "the guy who is going to start Game 1, you ll probably want to start [in the exhibition] ... that s probably coaching 101."

Kuemper was an early candidate for the Vezina Trophy given to the best goalie in the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in his first 24 games, but he sustained a lower-body injury Dec. 19 that kept him out more than two months. He returned Feb. 25 and played four games, allowing 10 goals on 131 shots (.924 save percentage), before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Raanta was 15-14-3 with a 2.63 GAA, .921 save percentage and two shutouts in 33 games (32 starts).

"Darcy is the backbone of our team," Tocchet said. "We re very lucky to have him and [Raanta] as a 1-2. [Kuemper] is a guy we definitely rely on and I can tell he hasn t missed a beat since the pause." -- Mike G. Morreale

Vitek Vanecek made 13 saves for the Capitals in the third period of a 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in an exhibition game at Scotiabank Arena. The 24-year-old goalie has the edge over Pheonix Copley for the backup role to starter Braden Holtby.

"I thought Vanacek was really good," coach Todd Reirden said. "His period of work and for him to come in, in that situation, not easy at all for any goalie, let alone someone young and up-and-coming like him. Obviously knowing we re going into the third with the lead and it was up to him to hold it. So really strong stance there. They got some momentum for a while there and then we pushed back. That s going to be of strong importance as we move forward with our team, in round-robin and Round 1 of the playoffs."

Vanecek was 19-10-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and two shutouts in 31 games for Hershey before the AHL canceled the remainder of its season May 11.

"From our last intrasquad game, where we tried to replicate the 4 p.m. game, tried to do as many things as we could, I thought he looked nervous in that game," Reirden said. "Then I didn t see that at all today. That s exciting to see from a young goaltender is that there s growth already. Part of that is, by us letting him know that right now, he is that backup and he has to be ready for the situation. I think that helped him confidence-wise, gave him a little bit of a boost."

Copley was 17-8-6 with a 2.47 GAA, .905 save percentage and two shutouts in 31 games with Hershey, and has played 29 NHL games for the St. Louis Blues and Capitals.

Ilya Samsonov played the entire season with the Capitals, but did not take part in training camp because of an undisclosed injury and is not on their roster for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Samsonov was second among rookie goalies with 16 wins, and fourth in games played (26) and GAA (2.55).

The Capitals play their first round-robin game Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning (4 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS, SUN, NBCSWA). They also play the Philadelphia Flyers (Aug. 6) and Boston Bruins (Aug. 9) to determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference. --Tracey Myers
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