Flyers Injury Update: Sean Couturier expected to return after 16-game absence

Flyers Injury Update: Sean Couturier expected to return after 16-game absence

VOORHEES, N.J. — After missing 16 games with an MCL sprain to his left knee, Sean Couturier is expected to be in the Flyers' lineup Wednesday night in St. Louis as the Flyers begin a three-game road trip.
Travel issues forced the Flyers' top checking center to miss practice Tuesday at Skate Zone, but he will join the club later today.
“Coots has a shot at playing soon,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “Hopefully he plays [Wednesday]. We will probably flip Reader (Matt Read) to LTIR.”
Coach Dave Hakstol would like to see Couturier play against the Blues, as well.
“I haven’t seen him or talked to him in a few days, but he’s a huge part of our team and we’ve seen that time after time, when he’s in the lineup versus out,” Hakstol said. “If he’s available, it would be nice to have him back.”
If Couturier plays, Hakstol said he doesn’t intend to touch Brayden Schenn’s line with Travis Konecny and Wayne Simmonds. He wants Schenn to remain at center.
That means Couturier drops into a true third-line role between Nick Cousins and Dale Weise.
“Brayden, for the most part, he’s done a pretty good job,” Hakstol said. “Everything can be adjusted but right now, that’s [a line] I want to stay with.”
Read, who has an oblique muscle pull, practiced with the team wearing the white “injured” jersey but left the practice early, although Hextall said he didn’t suffer a setback and it was planned that way.
“We knew it would be January,” Hextall said of Read’s full recovery, adding it would be a “long shot” for him to play in either game in San Jose or Anaheim by the weekend when this road trip finishes.
Goalie Michal Neuvirth (left knee), who practiced four times on his own in recent weeks, rejoined teammates Tuesday and will make the trip, but won’t play.
“He has some time,” Hextall said. “I’d be shocked if he played within the week.”
Anthony Stolarz will remain on the roster as the Flyers take three goalies on the road.
“Feeling good and will go day by day,” said Neuvirth, who’s missed 20 games. “For me, it’s just getting back to 100 percent and to feel good about myself again. Today was a real good practice — I was doing everything and it was the first good test for me.”
Loose pucks
• Jakub Voracek had a maintenance day, a curious designation after four days off.

• Mark Streit (left shoulder) took full practice but remained uncertain as to whether he would play this week. “I’m not quite there yet,” Streit said. “Just going through some drills. It’s going to be a process but I felt pretty good out there.”  

• Michael Raffl (right knee) did not practice. Taylor Leier replaced the injured Raffl on the top line with Claude Giroux and Voracek. 

• Steve Mason, who left the game last week in New Jersey with back tightness, practiced and said he is fine.

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

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Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny is one of a handful of young Flyers who thrives on confrontation, lining up an opponent in his crosshairs and going for the kill.

And that’s just his profile in Call of Duty — the popular war-based video game he plays occasionally with teammates.

And while Konecny didn't show up on the scoresheet Sunday evening, he still answered his call of duty, leading the charge in a variety of ways in the Flyers' 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals that inched the Flyers within four points of the division-leading Caps and two points of Pittsburgh for second place. All three teams return to action Tuesday with the Flyers in Detroit.

Battered, bloodied and perhaps a little beaten, Konecny was determined that the Capitals weren’t going to get the best of him.

“I just think I’ve learned in the two years I’ve been here it doesn’t matter what your role is on the team,” Konecny said after the game. “Everybody buys in, everybody blocks shots, everyone goes to the net, everyone backchecks. I think it’s a part of me that’s learned to become a Philadelphia Flyer.”

The orange and black uniform was only a cover for the black and blue bruises Konecny’s body endured. In the third period, he stood directly in the line of fire of Christian Djoos’s shot and then limped back to the locker room. On his next shift, Konecny blocked another shot from Dmitri Orlov.

Even after giving all the postgame interviews, Konecny was still limping. The playing surface at the Wells Fargo Center may not have had enough ice for all of his sore spots.

“He’s got the heart of a lion and I think you’ve seen that all year long,” said Wayne Simmonds, who tallied twice in the win. “I kept telling him that’s what winners are made of. It’s the type of effort we’re going to need from every single guy in this dressing room. He blocks one shot, he gets up slowly, gets back on the ice, blocks another.”

The clean-cut and rather reserved Konecny that came to the Flyers as a 19-year-old rookie last season has now been replaced with a more brash, tattoo-sporting, always-chirping Konecny with a longer hair style and the appearance of facial hair.

The only missing element to complete the look is a leather biker’s jacket.  

That rugged toughness was on display again when he dropped the gloves with Washington winger T.J. Oshie and bloodied his knuckles 7:41 into the third period.

“I just got high-sticked right before,” Konecny said. “I got frustrated and I finished my hit on him. Not a bad guy to take off the ice when they’re trying to score."

“It was awesome. It was great to see,” said Simmonds. “You see him get high-sticked there. He didn’t quit on the play and kept going. He battles with a guy who’s probably 20 pounds bigger, maybe more than that. It was a great emotional leap for the team in the third period there. Unbelievable job and kudos to him.”

Konecny, who has 19 goals and 22 asissts on the season and has earned Dave Hakstol's trust with a bump up to the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, has quickly rounded into a five-tool player this season with speed, playmaking, a scoring touch with a hard-nosed edge. Much like Brad Marchand with the Bruins, that type of player becomes vital once the postseason rolls around.

“It gives the bench a good injection of life,” said Hakstol. “They love it and guys love to see that on the bench. I think that’s what our guys expect, but it’s always great when you see one guy doing it.”  

Which is probably why Konecny enjoys that other Call of Duty. Another game with a similar approach, except a lot less painful.

Raffl out
General manager Ron Hextall announced Monday morning that forward Michael Raffl will miss two weeks with an upper-body injury suffered in the second period against the Capitals Sunday. Raffl, who has 11 goals and eight assists this year, had been seeing some time on the top line with Giroux and Couturier recently.

Future Flyers Report — Anthony Stolarz's long road back to playing

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Future Flyers Report — Anthony Stolarz's long road back to playing

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 24, 6-6/232, Reading (ECHL)
It was a long road back but Stolarz found his way back on the ice last week.

Stolarz began his rehab stint with the Royals and it doesn’t appear to be a long one. Per Jason Guarente, Stolarz packed up his gear Saturday and appears headed back to Lehigh Valley.

With Reading, Stolarz allowed six goals on 61 shots. As of this post, he has yet to be recalled.

The 24-year-old had been out since last April and underwent left knee surgery in September. Now that he’s back on the ice, expect Stolarz to see some AHL action. He’s on a one-year deal.

Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1/177, Everett (WHL)
Well, some disappointing news first. He failed to break the WHL shutout record, allowing one goal in Everett’s final regular-season game. He finishes his junior career with 26 shutouts.

Hart enjoyed one of the best junior seasons ever from a goalie and dominated the WHL. He led the league in goals-against average (1.60), save percentage (.947) and shutouts (7). The disparity between Hart and the No. 2 goalie, Cole Kehler, in GAA is remarkable. Hart finished with more than a goal better average than Kehler’s 2.77. Griffin Outhouse was second in save percentage, with .914. Hart was head and shoulders above his peers in the WHL.

Up next, the WHL playoffs. Then next season, the AHL. Hart watch is ramping up.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Frost’s quest to lead the OHL in points came up short but the Flyers' “other” 2017 first-round pick finished his draft-plus-1 season as a 1.67 point-per-game player.

The 18-year-old’s regular season ended Sunday with a goal and an assist. He finished the season with 42 goals, 70 assists and 112 points and led the OHL as a plus-70 player. Next up is the OHL playoffs.

Let’s cool the jets on the Frost on the Flyers talk next season. There is a chance he outshines the competition in training camp but he still needs to bulk up a considerable amount.

March Madness
The NCAA Tournament begins Friday. It’ll feature four Flyers prospects, Michigan’s Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren, Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski and Clarkson’s Terrance Amorosa.

Quick Hits
• Phantoms center Mikhail Vorobyev remained hot last week with two assists in three weekend games. He has eight points in his last nine games.

• Pascal Laberge’s point streak reached nine games before ending Friday. He finished the regular season with 47 points in 64 games between Quebec and Victoriaville.

• Matthew Strome, who signed his entry-level contract last week, finished the regular season with Hamilton with 37 goals and 68 points.

Isaac Ratcliffe’s season wrapped up on a four-game point streak and three-game goal streak. Ratcliffe led Guelph with 41 goals and 68 points.

• The Flyers signed Maksim Sushko to his entry-level contract. Sushko finished with 31 goals and 60 points. Five of the Flyers’ seven 2017 draft picks have signed.