Couturier giving first-rate effort on second power-play unit

Sean Couturier

On some teams, moving your top goal scorer to the second power-play unit might be taken as a bit of a disrespect.

But when a team like the Flyers comes up with seven power-play goals in three games – a big part of keeping an eight-game winning streak alive – no one’s going to complain.

Certainly not Sean Couturier, he of the team-leading 21 goals.

“We talked in Boston before we made the change,’’ coach Scott Gordon said after Thursday morning’s optional practice at the Skate Zone. “I just told him what my thoughts were.

“He was really good about it. I think he actually likes playing the net front (James van Riemsdyk has taken over that role on the first unit), so that was an opportunity for him (Couturier) to be with that unit in that position and he’s done a really good job on it.’’

Going into Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, the Flyers had moved up from 31st (last, at 13 percent) in the NHL all the way up to 23rd (16.6 percent).

The Flyers had only 19 power-play goals in their first 50 games and now have connected for those seven goals in the past three.

Couturier has been working well with Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom on that second unit. In Monday night’s 2-1 win over Vancouver, Lindblom freed up Konecny for a pass to Couturier for a power-play goal.

“He (Couturier) could have certainly handled the conversation a lot differently,’’ Gordon said. “He was nothing but positive about it.

“If anything, it made my job easier. It’s a great reaction by one of your leaders. Some guys might have taken it as a slap in the face but he didn’t.’’

Gordon is aware that the Flyers had only one, yes one, power-play goal from its second unit last year.

He’s been experimenting with the overall power play since he got here, including a brief stab at five forwards on the ice for the first unit.

That didn’t produce any overwhelming results. With Shayne Gostisbehere back from missing three games (bruised foot), things are back to normal, except Couturier’s re-placement gives the second unit more firepower.

So far, so good.

>Lehtera clears waivers, loaned to Phantoms

Jori Lehtera, who was put on waivers on Wednesday, was not claimed by any team and has been loaned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Lehtera has just three points this season. He joins Dale Weise on the ex-Flyers’ club down in Allentown.

Gordon indicated no replacement from the Phantoms would be called up in the near future, mainly because the Flyers are in the middle of a homestand, so a spare forward is not needed at the moment. They don’t travel again until next Tuesday’s game at Minnesota.

>Vorobyev holding his own

When Mikhail Vorobyev was called up from the Phantoms recently, Gordon was asked about why the young Russian lasted only seven games after making the opening night roster.

Gordon, who wasn’t coach yet back in October but saw him play with the Phantoms, said “he forgets to skate at times.’’

So far, at the moment, it appears Vorobyev is keeping his feet moving. He doesn’t have to score a lot of points, just play a good two-way game and keep things steady on the fourth line.

“I think one of the things that he’s taken to heart is that he has to play hard throughout his entire shift,’’ Gordon said. “And get into that comfort zone of being able to do that.

“I see him come to the bench and he’s breathing pretty heavy and that’s a good sign because before, at Lehigh, it used to be he was breathing too heavy because his shift was too long. Now it’s more about maximizing his effort in the first 30 seconds.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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