Couturier doing what he can with limited ice time

Sean Couturier

      VOORHEES, N.J. – For a player who’s averaged close to 20 minutes of ice time throughout his career, getting only 11 minutes in Saturday’s 6-5 loss at Boston had to be a humbling experience for captain Sean Couturier.

      The thing is, Couturier would be the last player on the roster to complain about a lack of action and that’s probably one of the reasons he was named team captain earlier this season.

      Getting demoted to the fourth line awhile back might have been a blow to Couturier’s ego. But to be forced to sit for long stretches of action at TD Garden had to sting a bit. He’s been a Flyer since 2011 and there hasn’t been a more loyal player.

      “I’ve been searching myself a little bit right now,” Couturier said after Monday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center.  “I think with the limited ice time opportunities I’m getting, the last couple games I think I’ve been better.

      “Obviously the team success hasn’t been there, so it’s tough right now. I’m just going to keep on working on my game and find a role, I guess.”

      Having said that, has any frustration set in over the reduction in playing time? For the season, he’s still averaging close to 19 minutes. His recent scoring drought has sort of forced coach John Tortorella to give other players more of a chance.

      “It’s tough,” Couturier said. “If you had asked me this a couple weeks ago, that I would mess up defensively, costing games to the team, I probably would say I deserve it, be demoted.

      “The last couple games, the limited opportunities I’m getting, the ice time, I think I’m playing all right. Not great. I’m just trying to do the most of what I can right now. Hopefully other guys step up so I can step up here eventually.”

      Couturier has produced 11 goals/36 points in 64 games. Those are not his usual offensive numbers but keep in mind he missed most of the past two seasons due to a pair of back surgeries.

      “I just try to control what I can control right now,” Couturier said of the recent reduction in ice time. “I’m not the boss, I’m not the coach. I try to help the team in any way I can. One thing I might need to be better (at) is be more ready, more involved when I sit around for awhile in a game.”

      Tortorella appreciates the way Couturier has handled this difficult situation. If one of the highest profile players were to sulk, it would set a bad example for the younger players.

      “I think there are a number of players, he being one, who could be better,” Tortorella said. “It’s the old chicken-and-the-egg: Give me more ice time and I’ll show you. I’m giving people plenty of ice time. The people that I have slotted and given more minutes as we’ve gone through here, I think deserve it.

      “There’s no special answer I can give – he has to play better. I don’t care if it’s 10 minutes or 17, 18 minutes. I don’t care if it’s seven minutes, you have to give me something to hang my hat on to keep on trying to earn more ice time.”

      Other players certainly watch to see how star players are treated.

      “I’m coaching 20 guys,” Tortorella said. “Not one or two or three. It’s all of them. There are decisions I have to make.”

      From a player’s standpoint, it’s gratifying to know the coach will always listen if someone wants to plead their case.

      “When you’re dealing with players who want more, you want those conversations,” Tortorella said. “You want to hear what they have to say. They need to listen to us, too. When people want more ice time in a team sport, they forget there are other people playing there, too, around them that might be playing better.

      “I don’t care about the name, the stature of a veteran, especially this time of the year. I don’t care who you are, I’m going to put in the guys that I think give you the best chance to win that game.”

      >Short shots

      The Flyers called up defenseman Adam Ginning and forward Olle Lycksell from the Phantoms. . .Defenseman Travis Sanheim left practice early but Tortorella said it was simply “maintenance.”. . .The Flyers Charities Carnival on Sunday was a big hit at the Wells Fargo Center. “It was nice seeing the fans and interacting with them,” Couturier said. “It’s always special when you get the chance to talk to them and see how they feel and how enthusiastic they are about this year.”

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About Wayne Fish 2426 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.