PHILADELPHIA – With Sean Couturier scratched for Game 4, the Flyers scrambled to adjust their lineup for a game they pretty much had to have.
More than 24 hours after the Flyers center was injured in a practice collision with teammate Radko Gudas, the team announced that there would no game action for No. 14
The prospects looked grim early in the day, given that Couturier did not take part in the morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.
General manager Ron Hextall announced shortly after 10 a.m. that there was still no update on Couturier’s condition.
Then, at 6:30 p.m., came official word that Couturier, who suffered a lower-body injury, would not play.
Contingency plans were already started in the morning.
Rookie Nolan Patrick was moved up to Couturier’s spot at first-line center between Claude Giroux (left) and Jake Voracek.
Valtteri Filppula moved up to second-line center between Travis Konecny on the left and Wayne Simmonds on the right.
On the third line, Scott Laughton went to center with Jordan Weal (right) and Michael Raffl (right).
As usual, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol was playing his cards close to the vest after the morning skate, unwilling to give out any information on Couturier or what possible lineup changes he might make if the center couldn’t play.
Giroux said he was ready for any possible scenarios.
“It’s a game-time decision,’’ Giroux said after the skate. “He (Couturier) has been playing a lot of minutes for us, plays every situation. He brings a lot to this team.
“I don’t know if he’s going to be ready to go tonight but we sure hope so.’’
Giroux is coming off the best regular season of his career with 102 points but has not scored in 10 playoff games, a number surely lurking in the back of his mind.
The captain remembers what happened during the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2010.
Simon Gagne was injured and Ville Leino stepped up and filled in admirably.
“Any time someone gets injured, it’s a great time for someone to step up,’’ he said. “I remember the year we went to the Cup (Finals). Gagne and Jeff Carter were both out. That was a good time for guys to step up.
“A great example is Ville Leino. He came to our team and didn’t play a lot of games in the regular season. Playoffs started and he was on one of our top lines and he played well.’’
Can Weal be Leino?
“Hope so,’’ he said.
Weal had an up-and-down season but did have a three-point game (the first of his career) against Pittsburgh down the stretch. It was tough to be in and out of the lineup but he persevered.
“I think it (the playoffs) is like jumping in and out of games during the year,’’ he said. “There were a couple times when I took some games off, had some time to watch from up top. I think it will be just like that. Just the frame of mind that you have to go out there, play your game and not worry about the other stuff.’’
Weal could give the Flyers an offensive boost. Playing vs. the Pens might be a good place to start comeback.
“I just have to work my rear end off,’’ he said. “It’s just one of those things where you have teams you do well against, teams you seem to have a little tougher time.
“Every game is different. Just look at this series: You’re going to have 7-0, 5-1 then 5-1 the other way. Hockey is never the same. You just have to prepare and react to the situations that come.’’
He acknowledged it’s been difficult sitting.
“It’s hard, it really is,’’ he said. “But I’ve had some experience with it, you just have to draw from those experiences. Just look back on those and replicate those.’’
Couturier a Selke finalist
The NHL announced the Frank Selke Trophy (NHL’s best defensive forward) finalists on Wednesday night. As expected, Couturier, Los Angeles Kings’ Anze Kopitar and Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron are the finalists. The winner will be named at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas in late June.
Patrick OK if he moves up
If Giroux doesn’t move over to center, there was a chance Nolan Patrick could be moved up to Couturier’s spot.
That would be a tall order for a rookie, facing either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
“I think I’ve gotten better in every role they’ve put me in,’’ Patrick said. “Obviously he (Hakstol) has more trust in me now.’’
Hakstol wasn’t feeling sorry about anything when he addressed the media after the morning skate.
“Look, it’s not about any one player,’’ he said. “You go through playoffs, you go through a season. Injuries are a part of it. We deal with it all the time. We’ll make good decisions tonight at game time. We’ll be ready and prepared, regardless of what the lineup is.
“It’s the biggest game of the series. If you go down 3-1, it’s a deep hole.’’
Gudas would not field any questions about Couturier. . .Wayne Simmonds, Voracek and Valtteri Filppula were given off from the morning skate.