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World Championship

Hart, Couturier using World Championship to learn about new Flyers coach

Canada's Vigneault hired by Philadelphia on April 15

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

KOSICE, Slovakia -- Carter Hart and Sean Couturier are using their time playing for Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Championship to get to know new Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault a little bit better.

Vigneault, who is coach for Canada at the tournament, was hired by the Flyers on April 15 to replace Scott Gordon.

"It's nice to have [Vigneault] here," Hart said. "He'll be my coach for next year. It's nice to get to know him a little bit here and see what he's about. He seems like a really nice guy and easy to get along with. It's nice to have him here for me and [Couturier]."

Couturier said the World Championship offers an opportunity to lay the groundwork for immediate improvements in the fall.

"For sure it's good," said the 26-year-old forward, who was second on the Flyers with 76 points (33 goals, 43 assists). "It's nice to get a good first contact and get to know him a little more personally. At the same time it's different here, a tournament as opposed to a long season, but it's nice to get to know him, get a feel for him and build a relationship."

In 16 seasons as a coach with the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens, Vigneault is 648-435-98 with 35 ties. He's tied with Ron Wilson for 12th in wins in NHL history, and his 1,216 games coached are 18th. He has twice coached teams to the Stanley Cup Final (Canucks, 2011; Rangers, 2014), but lost each time.

"He's obviously a winning coach in his previous track record with New York … he went to the Stanley Cup Final with New York and Vancouver," said Hart, a 20-year-old goalie who has two wins, a 1.00 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in two games at Worlds. "He's got a good track record. He's been good so far and the guys really seem to like him."

The Flyers (37-37-8) finished 16 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. It's the fourth time in seven seasons they have missed the playoffs and last won a postseason series in 2012.

Hart figures to play an important role in fixing that. He went 16-13-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .917 save percentage in 31 games. He won eight straight games from Jan. 14-Feb. 9, tying Jocelyn Thibault in 1995 for the longest winning streak by a goalie before his 21st birthday.

The World Championship offers Hart the opportunity not only to learn more about his new coach, but gain more experience to take into next season.

"I think for him to play in these types of games is a big bonus," Vigneault said. "There's a lot of exposure. There's good hockey being played here."

Hart, recalled by Philadelphia from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League on Dec. 17, led all Flyers goalies in starts with 30. Philadelphia set an NHL record with eight goalies to start at least one game this season.

"Ever since he got the callup he's played really well for us and won us some games," Couturier said. "He's shown that he's ready to be a good goaltender in the NHL. He definitely has a bright future. We'll keep him honest. He's still young so he might go through some tougher times, but so far he's managed any adversity he's had real well.

"He's definitely a big part of our future."

Hart and Vigneault will better sort out that future as the offseason progresses.

For now, though, Hart expects their relationship to continue to build throughout the World Championship.

"It just kind of happens as the tournament goes on," he said. "I think right now we're just focusing on Canada things and once it's a little bit slower we'll have time to focus on Philadelphia. He's done a good job of just focusing on the job that we have here with Team Canada."

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