VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s one thing to have one of your top players injured by an opponent in game action.
It’s quite another when someone like Sean Couturier limps off the ice in practice, as was the case Tuesday after he was hit by defenseman Radko Gudas.
Late Tuesday afternoon, general manager Ron Hextall said there would be no updates on Couturier’s condition until Wednesday. Couturier appeared to suffer a leg injury during a contact drill.
If Couturier cannot play in Wednesday night’s Game 4 at the Wells Fargo Center, it would be a severe blow to the Flyers, who trail their first-round best-of-seven series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-1.
Without Couturier, the Flyers probably would either move first-line center Claude Giroux from left wing back to center, where he has spent most of his career with the Flyers, or slide Nolan Patrick up from the second to the first line.
Or possibly Jake Voracek would move up to fill a spot on that line.
As for moving Patrick up or Giroux over, coach Dave Hakstol said he hadn’t thought that far ahead.
“I haven’t given it that kind of thought yet,’’ Hakstol said. “If we have to go to that (a decision based on Couturier possibly not playing), we’ll have that answer tomorrow night at game time.’’
Gudas wasn’t about to apologize for something that happened in the normal course of action.
“He didn’t see me and I didn’t see him,’’ Gudas said. “Tough break.’’
Couturier left the ice with the aid of head trainer Jim McCrossin.
“It (the Couturier collision) didn’t look too good,’’ Giroux said after the practice.
How scary was it to see Couturier being helped off the ice? The first-line centerman is the Flyers’ best defensive player and has been matched up against either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin for much of the series.
Couturier is also one of the Flyers’ best penalty killers.
“You don’t like to see that,’’ Giroux said. “Coots is playing 28 minutes a night for us right now. He’s a big piece to our team.’’
Goaltender Brian Elliott was cringing like all the Flyers.
“You never want to see one of your teammates get hurt in practice, or at any time,’’ Elliott said. “He’s a tough guy, so we’ll see what happens.
“There are a lot of guys here who can pick up slack, guys that are itching to get more time, too. If he’s not available, our guys are ready for that.’’
Voracek has played many games with Giroux, so there doesn’t need to be much of an adjustment period for the twosome.
“Obviously me and G have played together for a long time,’’ Voracek said. “So we kind of know what to expect. We just have to make sure we don’t get scored on.
“I’m pretty confident that if we keep Crosby in the defensive zone, we have a chance to win.’’
Giroux said there wouldn’t need to be too much of an adjustment to go back in the middle.
“We’re not going to jump to conclusions here,’’ Giroux said. “We’ll see how Coots is. But if it does come to that, whatever is best for the team, you go ahead and do it. But everyone in this room feels like that.’’
Hakstol is ready for any scenario.
Before the Couturier incident, he had made some line changes.
He started with Voracek replacing Michael Raffl on the first line.
Oskar Lindblom was wearing a “spare’’ jersey and Travis Konency was put on the left side of the second line, with Patrick at center and Wayne Simmonds on right wing. It’s been a long time since a Flyers’ line featured three right-handed shooters.
“Yeah, we just wanted to have a little bit of a fresh look in a couple different areas,’’ Hakstol said.
As for a possible new first line?
“We haven’t seen it since about 25 games (into the season) with G, Coots and Jake together,’’ the coach said.
“When we went away from it, that line had been outstanding. We weren’t playing well as a team at the time so wanted to try to build a little more depth into our forward group.’’
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