PHILADELPHIA – For what it’s worth, the Flyers just put together a much better preseason than the one they stumbled through last year.
After starting off 0-2 in their first two exhibition games, the Flyers regrouped and went 3-0-1 over their last four, including Thursday night’s 5-2 win over the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers were 1-4-1 last year.
The Flyers picked up goals from Nick Deslauriers, Noah Cates, Owen Tippett, Travis Konecny and Cam Atkinson. Goalie Carter Hart gave up the first goal of the game but then settled down from there as the Flyers went with a lineup pretty close to the one they will use when their regular season schedule opens in Columbus next Thursday.
Perhaps the best news of this game – and the entire preseason — is that Sean Couturier made it through in one piece and should be close to full speed for the regular-season opener.
“Physically, I feel really good,” he said. “I was surprised, I thought all the skating, how hard this camp was, I don’t have any soreness, any tightness.
“Obviously my game still has some work to be done but I think it’s going in the right direction. It got better and better every game. I just have to keep building on it.”
Couturier didn’t score in the four games he did play in but right now the biggest issue was whether he could get through a somewhat grueling training camp in one piece.
He’s missed a year and a half due to a pair of back surgeries, so there was bound to be some rust.
“I have to just keep working and get back to where I was,” Couturier said. “I still think I have another level. Just more with the execution and stuff. Physically, I’m getting a good feel of the game. It’s just about starting to execute and finish plays more. Just create more offensively; defensively I’m pretty sharp.”
Couturier pointed out he’s playing with a lot of new teammates, so it’s going to take a while to find the timing with them.
“It’s about chemistry also,” he said. “It’s just finding my role again. That’s the key. Once the season starts, I’ll do whatever I can to help this team win.”
Coach John Tortorella has been encouraged by what he’s seen of Couturier.
“Quite honestly, I think he needs to be selfish about himself about getting his game together,” Tortorella said. “Spending two years away from the game, he needs to focus on himself. That’s what he is doing. I think I’ll get a better indication I think when he feels more comfortable. I think his camp has gone well. He just needs to worry about himself.”
Now that the preseason is over, Tortorella gave his team pretty high marks.
“I think it has gone well,” he said. “I thought the guys came in in really good shape. We scored five goals tonight but I liked our checking. Saw the people we needed to see. Had a really good assessment of most of the guys that came through camp.”
After New York’s Karlson Kuhlman gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 9:53 of the first period, the Flyers responded with a short-range goal from Deslauriers at 15:15.
Just 1:09 later, Konecny hustled down the left side and took control along the boards. He spotted Cates cutting toward the net and the Flyer center made no mistake with a short shot past goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
In the second period, Tippett scored his first goal of the preseason on a nifty solo rush. He skated around and past the New York defense, fired a shot at Varlamov, then raced in to clean up the rebound at 8:14.
The Flyers continued to press the attack late in the period, resulting in a pair of Islander penalties. The Flyers didn’t score with the two-man edge but did convert at 18:45 with Konecny doing the honors on a blast from the right hash marks.
New York only managed 10 shots through the first two periods. But the Islanders scored at 5:45 of the third on a short shot from Brian Pinho. Atkinson made it 5-2 with a goal at 7:41 on an assist from Morgan Frost.
>Fourth line ready
It looks more and more like Tortorella will be going through with his plan to keep a fourth line of center Ryan Poehling, right wing Deslauriers and left wing Garnet Hathaway together for opening night next Thursday in Columbus.
The threesome were in place on Thursday night and even scored the aforementioned first goal for the Flyers.
“He (Poehling) just gets in the way, both him and Hathaway,” Tortorella said at the morning skate in Voorhees, N.J. “I think both him and Hathaway fit there. We know what Nick does, how hard he plays and the willingness that he has. I think it’s just a really good fit, all three of them. It’s a big line, so hopefully it will keep working.”
Tippett looked sharp on the goal he scored. A right-handed shot, he’s getting a lot of playing time on the left side and doesn’t mind a bit. “I’m really comfortable,” he said. “I think long-term it’s going to open some stuff up.” . . .Cates seems to be picking up right where he left off last year. “I really like where we’re at,” he said. “I think we will be ready for that first game. For me, it’s knowing I can play defensively in this league. I have a lot of trust in myself.” . . .Tyson Foerster enjoyed probably his best game of the preseason. “Tonight I thought was my best game so far,” he said. “I think I was working hard (throughout the preseason) and he (Tortorella) loves that.”