PHILADELPHIA – When Flyers coach Alain Vigneault announced he wanted to implement a new, up-tempo style to his team this year, Sean Couturier’s eyes must have lit up.
The veteran center thrives on quick movement of the puck.
There’s a good chance he once again he will be paired with Claude Giroux on a top line, so speed is of the essence.
“He (Vigneault) seems to be really prepared and knows what he wants from his players,’’ Couturier said. “So far, practice has been high paced, a lot of drills, but high tempo, quick. Everyone seems to be in good shape, and we are just trying to get better every day and give a good impression.’’
Couturier had an assist on the Flyers’ only goal of the game – by Matt Niskanen at 11:58 of the first period – in a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.
The Flyers fell to 0-3 for the preseason. Brian Elliott and Alex Lyon split goaltending duties for the Flyers.
Couturier enjoyed a breakthrough season two years back when he shattered his personal-best goal total for a season with 31, earning runner-up finish for the Frank Selke Trophy (best NHL defensive forward).
He followed that up with 33 goals last year, equaling his career best of 76 points.
Look for more of the same this year, especially with Vigneault at the control board.
There’s a possibility Couturier could see some playing time with rookie Joel Farabee, who is no slouch in the quickness department either.
Couturier, Giroux and Farabee were together for Thursday night’s game against the Boston Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.
“He (Farabee) has been fun to play with,’’ Couturier said. “He seems to be a smart player and has good skills. I like the way he thinks the game. He already knows what plays to make before getting the puck and it’s good for a young player to adapt to the speed.’’
After Thursday night’s game, Couturier said the Flyers’ offense is still a work in progress. The team has scored only four goals in three games.
“The tempo is not bad,’’ he said. “It’s not system, it’s just little details, little turnovers. I think guys are going to get sharper and sharper as the preseason goes on, as long as we’re ready for game 1 (of the regular season), that’s the most important thing.’’
Vigneault had Giroux and Couturier matched up against rookies Isaac Ratcliffe and Morgan Frost respectively in a practice drill.
It was a learning experience for the two kids.
“Those two kids are learning what the NHL pace is,’’ Vigneault said. “There’s no doubt that Coots, Giroux and Farabee, they were dominant in the little five-on-five competitions that we had, whether it be on the forecheck or the offensive zone play. It was good to see.
“I think for those two young men going against two elite players is a good thing. You see the pace, you see the intensity. A couple of times, G on his backcheck stripped them of the puck. You just see that those guys never stop and are always moving.’’
It might take a while for the Flyers to get a handle on exactly how Vigneault wants his team to play.
“It takes a little bit of time when you working with a new staff that’s got maybe a little different outlook on how you do things with the puck and without the puck,’’ Vigneault said.
>Niskanen unhappy with his effort
While Niskanen did score the Flyers’ only goal, he wasn’t satisfied with his overall performance. As expected, he was paired with Ivan Provorov.
“We didn’t do too good, at least I didn’t,’’ he said. “It’s part of the process, getting our feet wet for the first game. Clearly I have to get my timing back a little bit.
“I didn’t execute well enough to get on the attack. Too much time in our zone.’’
>Giroux shakes off rust
Giroux and Couturier were playing in their first game and it took a while to get up to speed.
“The first game is always tough to get into it,’’ he said. “It’s good to get that first one out of the way. As the game went on, guys were feeling more comfortable.’’
Some of Farabee’s offensive skills are become evident already.
“He battles hard,’’ Giroux said. “His hockey sense. . .he’s smart offensively and defensively.’’
Said Farabee: “I thought I played definitely better than my first game. I thought as a line we had a lot of chances. It’s just get those guys the puck and let them do the rest.’’
Rookie Kurtis Gabriel has what amounts to a significant injury. Gabriel suffered a lower-body injury in Tuesday night’s overtime 3-2 loss at Long Island and is listed as week to week. . .The Flyers will face the New York Rangers on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
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