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Flyers ready for ‘next man up’ mentality with Couturier out for Game 4

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PHILADELPHIA — Before the Philadelphia Flyers fully trickled out to the Wells Fargo Center ice for their optional morning skate ahead of Game 4 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, live stream), the word from the team was that there was no update on Sean Couturier, who was injured following a collision with Radko Gudas during Tuesday’s practice.

When pressed, all head coach Dave Hakstol would say is that it’s a game-time decision. If Couturier is out, that could mean rookie Nolan Patrick centering the top line or Claude Giroux moving from the wing to back down the middle.

“We’ll be ready and prepared, regardless of what the lineup is,” Hakstol said. “You can’t center it around one or two players.”

“Anytime somebody gets injured or traded, it’s a great opportunity for guys to step up,” said Giroux. The Flyers captain would reference their run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final that saw players like Ville Leino and Giroux himself step up when Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne were forced from the lineup. It’s understood that it’s next man up in these situations.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Patrick would see his responsibilities upped should Couturier sit, as there’s the possibility of him being matched up with Sidney Crosby.

“If the lines are different I wouldn’t change how I play against [Crosby],” Patrick said.

There’s no replacing what Couturier brings to the Flyers lineup. Patrick called him “one of the best two-way players” he’s ever seen, and if the option for Hakstol to play him in all situations is taken away for Game 4, that would leave a big hole in a vital game for Philadelphia.

The penalty kill would take a hit in his absence, a unit that was overwhelmed in Game 3 and allowed three goals on seven Penguins power play opportunities. Six of those penalties were stick infractions, and while relying on special teams isn’t something that necessarily built into Mike Sullivan’s game plan, the Flyers did make sure to talk about being smarter. Going back to Pittsburgh down 3-1 is something they want to avoid.

“I think everyone knows those mistakes before our coach even tells us,” Patrick said. “Can’t happen and we’ll be better in that area.”

More: Flyers hoping new lines can get offense going vs. Penguins

UPDATE:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers survive Bruins third-period rally in 4-3 overtime win

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Give credit to the Boston Bruins — the word ‘quit’ isn’t one that computes with the Atlantic Division leaders — but the Philadelphia Flyers had no intentions of giving up either on Easter Sunday.

That isn’t to say they’d be blamed if they did. Game-tying goals with 3.8 seconds left in the third period can be deflating, to say the least.

But after Patrice Bergeron tied the game up with mere seconds left on the game clock, Claude Giroux, who had already scored in regulation, added another highlight-reel marker to his repertoire in a 4-3 overtime win for the Flyers — their 40th — on the NHL on NBC.

Giroux’s marker was his 29th, setting a new career-high in goals after previously setting a new career-high in points with 94 earlier in the game after his first goal.

Boston trailed 3-1 after Nolan Patrick scored on a breakaway 25 seconds into the third period, but found the strength to mount a comeback, finding it through David Pastrnak at 6:54 and then Bergeron’s 30th of the season at 19:56.

The Bruins, who played to a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers 24 hours earlier could have just rolled over for the rest of the period after Patrick’s goal, but found a way to eek out a point to extend their lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning (who play later on Sunday) to two points in the race for top spot in the Atlantic.

The win was big for the Flyers, who moved level with the Columbus Blue Jackets for third place in the Metropolitan Division on 94 points. Perhaps most importantly, the win moved Philly three points ahead of the New Jersey Devils who sit a spot behind the Flyers in the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey is set to play later on Sunday.

The Flyers took a 1-0 lead after a nasty save from Petr Mrazek, who finished with 35 saves in the contest, kept the games nil-nil in the first period.

After winning the ensuing faceoff, the Flyers produced a nice breakout and created an odd-man situation that was capped off by Giroux, who fired home the one-timer for his 28th of the season.

The goal also pushed the 30-year-old’s point streak to seven games.

The Flyers doubled their advantage on a spectacular goal that is sure to be in the running for goal of the season.

Travis Konecny picked up a loose puck just inside the Bruins zone, split both David Pastrnak and Adam McQuaid and then beat Patrice Bergeron before tucking the puck past Anton Khudobin.

Khudobin allowed four goals on 20 shots in the loss.

Boston moved to 110 points with the win, one back of the Nashville Predators in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy. Nashville can do Boston a favor with a win over the Lightning later on Sunday.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Rookies get all the goals

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Players of the Night:

Travis Dermott and Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs: Both Dermott and Holl scored their first NHL goals on Wednesday, Dermott in his ninth NHL game and Holl in his first. Dermott assisted on Holl’s goal, because of course he did.

Chandler Stephenson, Washington Capitals: Stephenson scored his third and fourth career NHL goals to help drag the Capitals back from an early first-period 2-0 deficit. His goals began a run of five straight for the Caps, who beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Jones sure could have used some run support on Wednesday. He made 43 of 44 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Someone owes the man a dinner.

Highlights of the Night:

Nice pass from Wayne Simmonds. Nice finish from Nolan Patrick.

Geez, Louise, Tomas Tatar.

Factoids of the Night:

MISC:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 5, Islanders 0

Capitals 5, Flyers 3

Red Wings 2, Sharks 1 (SO)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Bergeron’s big night, Sens win again, Avalanche in a playoff spot

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Players of the Night: 

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins: Bergeron came into Saturday three points shy of 700 for his NHL career. He reached that mark in the first period, scoring twice and adding an assist as the Bruins put up five against the Carolina Hurricanes. He then put his stamp on the night, burying his hat trick goal in the second frame for good measure. Not bad, Patrice. Not bad.

Ryan Dzingel (and the rest of the Ottawa Senators, really): Dzingel had two goals in the game, giving him four over the past three games. Matt Duchene scored for the third time in two games and the Senators took down the best team in the NHL, a 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning after coming from behind for a 6-5 win on Friday night. Not too shabby on the back to back. The Sens blew a three-goal lead in this one as well.

Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, Dallas Stars: The Dallas Duo each had three points as the Stars eased past the Edmonton Oilers 5-1.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers: Not only did he score a but goal, Giroux had three points to help the Flyers to a 6-3 defeat of the St. Louis Blues in Brayden Schenn‘s return to Philly.

Highlights of the Night:

It’s never too late to score a game-winner:

Two-on-one. Seguin and Radulov. Only one way this ends:

No video here, because this one doesn’t need any:

Factoids of the Night:

Henrik Lundqvist moved into eighth on the all-time win list with this save on a point-blank clapper in the shootout.

MISC:

Scores:

Flyers 6, Blues 3

Stars 5, Oilers 1

Bruins 7, Hurricanes 1

Maple Leafs 3, Canucks 2 (SO)

Senators 6, Lightning 3

Rangers 2, Coyotes 1

Avalanche 7, Wild 2

Flames 3, Ducks 2

Predators 4, Kings 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Claude Giroux’s resurgence helping Sean Couturier soar to new heights

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Claude Giroux’s move to the wing this season was a response.

Giroux’s production had been tumbling out of the realm of elite point producers over the past two seasons and an effort needed to be made to try and restart G’s engines.

The moved seems asinine back in training camp, even with Giroux’s downward trend. Giroux had carved out quite the nice niche as a top centerman in the NHL as a point-per-game player who could play at both ends of the ice and win a pile of faceoffs.

So moving that guy to the wing would mean tearing a big hole down the middle in Philadelphia, even with Nolan Patrick, the second-overall pick this past summer, likely to fill it.

The suffering potential was huge, at least from the outside looking in.

The move, however, may be head coach Dave Hakstol’s best piece of genius thus far, and not just because Giroux has rekindled the form he exhibited a few years ago, but because of what he’s been able to do to help out Sean Couturier and the Flyers’ fearsome top line as a whole.

Giroux’s resurgence as a top player and his seamless adaptation to his new digs on the left side with Couturier has done wonders for the latter.

Couturier scored his 16th goal of the season on Wednesday in a 4-3 win for the Flyers over the Detroit Red Wings.

Couturier’s wingman had three assists, including on Couturier’s game-winning goal. Seeing the pair beside each other on the scoresheet has become a common occurrence in Philadelphia.

Claude Giroux has assisted on 12 of Couturier’s 16 goals this season and Couturier is shooting at 15.2 percent, 5.1 percent higher than his career average. Perhaps this boils down to Giroux finding his linemate in better shooting spots on the ice.

Couturier is certainly shooting more, with 105 shots already through 34 games. He had 165 in 82 games back during the 2013-14 season.

Coots’ 16 goals are already a career-high, one more than the 15 he set during the 2014-15 season. At this point, Couturier would simply shatter his old production records. Sitting on 31 points in 34 games, Couturier only needs eight to tie his previous career high.

That seems exceedingly plausible at this point. As does Giroux remaining a point-per-game player again. He’s already on 39 points in 34 games and is 12th in NHL scoring heading into Thursday night slate of action.

The Flyers have now won seven of their past eight games after their shocking 10-game losing streak prior to their current heater.

Perhaps the chemistry between center and winger could propel the Flyers back into the playoff picture after all.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck