Veteran goalie Brian Elliott returned to the Flyers’ lineup Thursday night for the first time in nearly two months.
“It’s huge for us to get him back,” defenseman Radko Gudas said after Thursday’s morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center, where the team prepared to face Carolina. “He was a big part of our team’s winning times, and it’s always good to get a guy back who was with us from the start. The guys are excited to get him back for the last two games of the season and looking for him to feel pretty good and get ready for the playoffs.”
Entering Thursday, the Flyers’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot was three points.
Elliott underwent core-muscle surgery, and the Flyers went an admirable 13-7-5 in his absence, using Petr Mrazek, Michal Neuvirth, and Alex Lyon over that span.
Before he was injured, Elliott’s numbers weren’t overwhelming — a 21-11-7 record, a 2.72 goals-against average, and a .908 save percentage — but he brought stability and composure to the position and seemed to always be in control. He played Thursday for the first time since Feb. 10.
Lyon, who went 4-2-1 with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage, was sent back to the Phantoms.
For the fifth time, Claude Giroux was named the winner of the Bobby Clarke Trophy, awarded to the Flyers’ MVP after a vote of sportswriters and sportscasters.
Shayne Gostisbehere won the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the team’s top defenseman for the second time in three seasons.
Sean Couturier was a three-time winner. The center captured the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy as the most improved player (voted upon by his teammates), the Yanick Dupre Class Guy Memorial Award, and the Gene Hart Memorial Award (most heart, as voted by the fan club).
Giroux won the Toyota Cup, based on the star-of-the-game voting during the season.
In a surprise, speedy Travis Konecny — who has thrived at right wing on the top line, scoring 20 goals in his 41 games with that unit — dropped down to left wing on the third line.
Michael Raffl, a hard-nosed player, played right wing on the top unit, which included Couturier and Giroux.
Raffl is “strong on pucks and brings pucks to the net hard,” Couturier said. “He does a lot of little things really well that can make our line successful.”
After the morning skate, coach Dave Hakstol said Raffl and Konecny were “adaptable” and that “it gives us really good flexibility — not only for tonight’s game, but also moving forward.” The move makes the first unit “a heavier line, a little bit more of a down low, grinding line. A little more net-front presence,” Hakstol said.
Konecny played left wing on the third line with center Val Filppula and right winger Wayne Simmonds.
“They’ve had a couple really good games together,” Hakstol said, adding that “it has to be what’s best for the entire roster, not just for one line.”
Scott Laughton returned to the lineup and played left wing on the fourth line. Jordan Weal was scratched. … In their regular-season finale Saturday afternoon, the Flyers will host the Rangers, who have announced that Henrik Lundqvist will be their starting goalie.