Photo: broadstreethockey.com

The Philadelphia Flyers will be without center Sean Couturier, who is a key player in its lineup, for the rest of its Eastern Conference Round 1 playoff series against the Washington Capitals.

Couturier took a hit in the second period of game one from Capitals’ forward Alex Ovechkin and he went into the boards shoulder first. Couturier managed to clear the puck out of harm’s way, but then went right off the ice and to the Flyers locker room. He didn’t return for the rest of the game. The Flyers lost the game 2-0, but managed to stay in the game even with the Capitals getting better as the game went on.

Couturier had played a full 82-game schedule the previous two seasons, but missed 18 games this season. The center was injured on three separate occasions this season. He was out from 10/24-11/3 due to an upper body injury that was suffered after he was hit up high by Zac Rinaldo. Couturier was then out from 1/21-1/27 when he missed three games due to a lower body injury. He then missed nine games from 2/6-2/20 with a lower body injury. The Flyers were a dismal 5-9-4 during the 18 games that he missed due to injury this year.

He had 11 goals, 28 assists, and 39 points despite only playing in 63 regular season games. The 39 points tied a career high set during the 2013-14 season while playing a full 82-game schedule. The 28 assists set a new career high with 26 being his previous high set during the 2013-14 season.  The center averaged 18:36 of ice time during the regular season.

He is the best defensive forward on the team, which is why he’s almost always matched up against the opposing team’s top line and player. The forward made major strides on the offensive side of his game and even looked more comfortable with the puck on his stick. The center had the responsibility of running the second power play from the half boards, where he had seven points (two goals, five assists). He added a game winning goal, a short-handed assist and 119 shots this year.

The Orange and Black will miss Couturier in the lineup, but they need to have a “next man up” attitude. Scott Laughton, a 21-year-old rookie, could be the next man and making his NHL Playoffs debut at the same time. Laughton is a natural center but can also play the wing, if needed. Brayden Schenn could also fill Couturier’s spot at center since he can play either center or wing as well. If Laughton enters the lineup, he could slide right in and take over some of the penalty killing duties for the injured Couturier since Dave Hakstol has used him in that situation this season.

There could also be options on the power play with either Michael Raffl or rookie Nick Cousins taking Couturier’s spot. Cousins could slide right into Couturier’s spot and run the power play from the half wall. If Raffl is the replacement on the power play than Sam Gagner could take Couturier’s place along the wall and Raffl be the man in the slot with Ryan White in front of the net. Another option would be to break up the struggling first power play unit and put Brayden Schenn down on the second unit and slide Raffl to the first unit.

If the Flyers want to keep pace with the Capitals in this series then the whole team will have to step up and try to fill the skates of Couturier.

 

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