The Philadelphia Flyers will be without the services of their second line center, Sean Couturier, for the next month due to a lower body injury.
Couturier has been a vital piece of the Flyers’ success this season so he will be hard to replace in the lineup. Philadelphia is only 2-6-2 when he hasn’t been on the ice this season. Couturier does so much for the Flyers, including defending against the opposition’s top line, playing on the second power play unit, killing penalties, and being on the ice late in games to protect the lead. He has 16 points (6G, 10A, 16 points) in his last 16 games played, and 14 of those points have been scored while playing 5-0n-5 hockey.
If Philadelphia wants to stay in the playoff hunt for the next month then more than one player will have to step up his game. Five players who should understand the road ahead and rise to the occasion are:
Scott Laughton is in his first full season with the Flyers. The center has played on the third or fouth line all season and has only averaged 10:17 of ice time per game. This is his chance to prove that he can handle more minutes and the expectations that come with them. He has shown the ability to create offense and score this season, but just has struggled to do so consistently. His faceoff percentage will also need to improve as well as his defensive coverage. Laughton has been used on the penalty kill this season so that is also an option should he chose to embrace it.
Sam Gagner will finally have his chance to be a mainstay in the Flyers lineup this season. He has been a healthy scratch and was even sent down to the AHL for a stretch because of Philly’s salary cap problem. The forward could be a huge boost to the offense, especially to the second power play unit, if he can start producing. Gagner only has two goals, four assists and six points in 23 games played this season. The veteran will need to prove that he can still be a creative playmaker and offensive threat if he wants to keep his place in the lineup.
Brayden Schenn hasn’t had a problem producing on the power play where he has scored 12 of his 29 points. He only has 17 points while playing at even strength, and he’ll have to produce more there with Couturier’s injury. Couturier and Schenn were playing on a line together and had some chemistry prior to the injury so Schenn will need to get used to playing with someone else. Schenn can either play center or right wing, but he may want to consider remaining on the wing because he’s looked better there this season.
Matt Read has been moved up and down the lineup all season, and can play in any situation the Flyers put him in. He will stay on the penalty kill, but will need to get comfortable playing with whoever replaces Couturier, and there are some options there. Read needs to take some chances in the offensive zone and start shooting the puck when it’s on his stick. He’ll need to produce more since the opposition will try to shut down the top line, if there isn’t any secondary scoring coming from the other forwards. Read will also be playing with an inexperienced center in either Laughton or Nick Cousins, who was recalled by the Flyers after the loss of Couturier so he’ll need to be better defensively. He could see more ice time late in games to help the Flyers protect the lead.
Michael Raffl has been a disappointment this season especially on the offensive side of things. He was demoted from the top line and is now playing on the third line. He only has six goals, six assists for 12 points on the year. Raffl needs to shoot the puck more instead of passing, recognizing he has a scoring chance. Once he gets the shot off, he needs to start driving towards the net to get those rebounds that will be there. He may be called upon to pick up some penalty killing duties since he has been on the Flyers’ penalty killing unit in the past. Raffl will most likely stay on the second power play unit, but he needs to start hanging around the crease area looking for the loose pucks.
If the Flyers still hope to be in the playoff hunt when Couturier returns, then these five guys need to step up their game and contribute to the secondary scoring. The Flyers will also need to play team defense.