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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Phil Varone, Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk scored to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to their season-high fourth straight win, 3-1 over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night.
Carter Hart has won all four of those games in goal for the Flyers and has been a needed spark of optimism for one of the worst teams in the NHL. He stopped 31 shots and won his seventh game since his late-December call-up.
Varone knocked in his second goal of the season midway through the second period for a 1-0 lead. Jack Roslovic tied it on a deflection.
Konecny snapped the tie on a redirection past Laurent Brossoit with 1:14 left in the second for his 13th goal of the season. Hart made the lead stand up and van Riemsdyk scored late in the game to help the Flyers build a modest winning streak against four teams with winning records.
Philadelphia opened the second half of the season aware that these could be the final games together for a core group of veterans that have little to show for several seasons of solid individual statistics — and no deep playoff run.
“We have good players,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “We haven’t been a good team.”
The Flyers entered 14 points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and Fletcher is prepared to make changes by the Feb. 25 trade deadline. He said Monday that All-Star center and team captain Claude Giroux is the only veteran he won’t trade. Giroux does have a no-trade clause, but a deal that involved the popular holdover from the 2010 Stanley Cup Final team might cause a half-empty Wells Fargo Center to completely thin out.
“We have a lot of good players here, but I would never say never to almost anybody besides Giroux,” Fletcher said.
The Flyers can stick the 20-year-old Hart on the untouchable list, too.
Fletcher said he would send Hart to the minors to play for the Leigh Valley Phantoms if the AHL franchise is in the playoffs. With the Flyers on a long break, Hart made a spot start Saturday for the Phantoms and took a loss.
The Flyers would need an improbable run to make the postseason for the second straight year — and even the GM isn’t sure it’s in the cards.
“We’d like to get some pieces that could be a part of this for a few years,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher has talked to pending free agent Wayne Simmonds about his role in the rebuild. Philadelphia could stay the course and try to sign Simmonds to a new deal. But the solid scorer and team leader with a $3.75 million salary cap hit could net the Flyers key pieces as they look toward the future.
“Clearly in the next few weeks, we will have to resolve that one way or the other,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher won’t wave the white flag on the season quite yet. But the GM who replaced the fired Ron Hextall in November knows he wasn’t brought aboard to keep the status quo.
“We’re at a stage where we need a big run here,” Fletcher said.
(©Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)