Getting Couturier back should aid Flyers’ cause

Sean Couturier

      Regardless of Sean Couturier’s offensive slump prior to his injury, the Flyers still welcomed him back with open arms heading into Tuesday night’s game at Montreal.

      The Flyers, who lugged a seven-game (0-5-2) winless streak into the showdown, had been without Couturier since he suffered an upper-body injury in a game against Chicago on March 30.

      Going into the game against the Canadiens, Couturier had not scored in 20 games, a drought dating back to Feb. 10 vs. Seattle.

      With four games left on the schedule, Couturier is looking to help out any way he can.

      “I’ve felt better every day this past week,” he said after the morning skate at the Bell Centre. “I feel good enough to go so we’ll see.”

      Couturier was injured during a collision in open-ice in the Blackhawk game. Perhaps it looked a bit worse than it really was. . .dodging a bullet, so to speak.

      “Yeah, especially when it happened,” he acknowledged. “It was pretty painful, I’m not going to lie. I was trying to get back as soon as possible.”

      The Flyers were trying to find their shooting eyes again but they’ve looked tight in recent games.

      “Maybe just relax and play,” was Couturier’s recommendation. “I think maybe we’re gripping the sticks on the offensive side of things. We can take a step back and not rush things. Overall I think we’ll give up less. The offense will come.”

      The question now is whether it’s too late. The Flyers are in a tight struggle with the Islanders, Washington, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Five teams and only three spots left available.

      Coach John Tortorella said the team would like to get a lead and play with it.

      “We’re just trying to get some momentum,” he said. “Some sort of swagger, get our confidence back. Nothing better than goals (which have been in short supply lately). We have to realize we’re a good team and hope good things happen.”

      >Praise for York

      Tortorella likes the way defenseman Cam York’s play has evolved this year. He’s been paired with Travis Sanheim quite a bit in the second half of the season and that’s been the top tandem in terms of minutes played, including a lot of time spent on the NHL’s No. 3 penalty kill unit.

      “He (York) probably has one of the best sticks on our team,” the coach said. “The thing that has just exploded on to me is just his willingness to block shots. He is just one willing player. He has turned into being a really good player for us.

      “And he’s logged a ton of minutes. But it’s his willingness that caught me by surprise as he played more and more this year. He’s a different guy. It’s a tremendous credit to him.”

      >Added responsibility

       A number of the Flyers’ young players are going through this playoff push for the first time. Tortorella was asked about how they’re handling the additional pressure and so forth.

      “You’re going through these pressure situations,” Tortorella said. “Asking them for more responsibility because of where the season is at this time of year. There are so many good things that come about here. We’re evaluating.

      “For me, I’m tired of that line. I’ve said it a ton, I’m tired of talking about it. For me, we’re that close. Let’s start thinking about getting in (the playoffs). I don’t want us to just feel comfortable and that’s where we’re trying, in the right way, to put them not just in meaningful situations but getting into the playoffs.”

      There are no “we tried hard” victories here.

      “I don’t want us to settle,” the coach said. “And I don’t think our guys have. But I think we’re going through some pains here as to whether these guys can get to that next level.”

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About Wayne Fish 2444 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.