Having given up 18 goals in their last three games, the last thing the Flyers needed was the absence of their best defensive forward.
So there was a collective sigh of relief on Monday morning when head coach Alain Vigneault announced that a MRI on Sean Couturier’s injured hip did not show any structural damage.
With that in mind, Couturier took part in the morning skate at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. and was listed as “probable’’ for Monday night’s home game against the New York Islanders.
Vigneault said Couturier would be a game-time decision but it sounds like the center will be a go after being a late scratch for Saturday night’s 6-l loss to the Isles at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.
“Sean got an MRI on Sunday and it revealed a former injury with his hip,’’ Vigneault said during a media Zoom call. “They said he should be fine today, he’s going to take warmups tonight and we’ll make the decision after warmups.’’
Couturier, the reigning holder of the Selke Trophy (NHL’s best defensive forward), has been centering what amounts to the Flyers’ most productive line. His wings, James van Riemsdyk and Joel Farabee, are tied for the team’s goal lead with 13.
The Flyers will be trying to win the rubber game of a current three-game set with the Islanders. Philadelphia holds a 3-1 edge in the season series.
Having Couturier back should help the Flyers’ cause.
“When talking with him this morning and Jimmy (team medical chief Jim McCrossin), they both felt he should be good to go tonight,’’ Vigneault said.
If Couturier dressed for the game, rookie Carsen Twarynski was scheduled to sit out.
Earlier in the season, Couturier missed about three weeks with a serious rib injury. The Flyers dodged a bullet this time.
“There’s no doubt ‘Coots’ is probably our best and most consistent forward at playing the right way, checking when it’s time to check, at making the right plays at the line,’’ Vigneault said.
“It’s all against tough opposition. So when he is in our lineup, we’re a better team. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but it looks good for tonight.’’
>Gostisbehere back in action
After serving a three-game benching, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was penciled back in for the Monday night game.
Gostisbehere had taken a seat after going a minus-8 through his last three games.
“It’s a little bit like our team, more consistency when it’s time to defend,’’ said Vigneault in response to a question about what Gostisbehere has to do to stay in the lineup.
“Ghost was defending real well at the beginning. I think that also enabled him to have a good five-on-five and power-play game. His defensive game is killing plays, his one-on-one situations with the forwards coming at him with speed.’’
With Gostisbehere back in, veteran Nate Prosser (who had a real rough game on Saturday night with several glaring turnovers) went to the bench.
When Gostisbehere has his game going, he can be real offensive threat. He just can’t afford to be a liability on defense.
“When he’s got a tight gap and he’s right there and he’s strong, he kills those plays,’’ Vigneault said. “He hasn’t done that. He’s aware of that.’’
Gostisbehere has been benched at times before in his career for pretty much the same reasons so he knows the drill.
“You never want to be out,’’ said Gostisbehere, who was scheduled to be paired on the No. 1 defense unit with Ivan Provorov. “I look at the positives, could use some rest. I’m going to go from there.
“It’s just more defending. They say my offense is doing fine. There’s a difference. . .when you’re playing with confidence offensively you can tell. You have to play with confidence defensively as well, too. You have to be hard on pucks, in one-on-ones. I don’t think I was really doing that. I learned from it and I’m going to move on.’’
>Elliott to start in goal
Vigneault announced Brian Elliott as his starting goaltender for the Islander game, with Carter Hart returning to the net for Tuesday night’s home game against the New Jersey Devils.
With that in mind, Hart was not suiting up for the Islander game as Alex Lyon took his place as Elliott’s backup.
Vigneault wanted Hart to stay around after the Monday morning skate to get in some more work with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh plus the five or six players on the taxi squad.