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.

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

AP Images

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz had his third career hat trick to help the St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Schwartz has four goals and six assists this season and has at least one point in six of the Blues' first seven games. It was his 51st career multi-point game and fourth this season.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, Kyle Brodziak also scored, and Jake Allen made 22 saves. The Blues snapped a two-game losing streak

Duncan Keith and Ryan Hartman had late goals for Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves (see full recap).

Maple Leafs ride big 1st period to win
TORONTO -- Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves in his season debut and the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four times in the first period in a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Starting in place of Frederik Andersen, McElhinney stopped 14 shots in the third period to hold off the Red Wings.

Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored to help Toronto improve to an NHL-best 6-1-0. The Maple Leafs were coming off a 2-0 victory at Washington on Tuesday night.

Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Ericsson scored for the Red Wings, and Nick Jensen had three assists.

Jimmy Howard gave up three goals on four shots before getting yanked in favor of Petr Mrazek late in the first period (see full recap).

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

USA Today Images

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

For the first time in his nine-year career, Michal Neuvirth knows when he gets home at night after a game, there will be someone waiting for him with a smile.

Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to Neuvirth, or especially to his one-month-old daughter, Emily Gudasová Carolina.

“When you come home, there’s a baby waiting and it's such an amazing feeling that someone is waiting for you at home,” Neuvirth said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. “Last year, I was mostly here by myself, so I definitely like it better having a family with me now.”

Family now consists of his newborn daughter, his fiancee Karolína Gudasová and uncle Radko Gudas, Gudasová’s older brother and Neuvirth’s Flyers teammate.

To those of us on the outside, the responsibility of fatherhood seemingly has altered Neuvirth’s disposition. He smiles more, cracks a few jokes and elaborates just a little more with his answers to the media. Perhaps, he can tolerate us because there’s a deeper purpose and a sense of providing that comes with fatherhood.  

“It’s an amazing feeling being a dad,” Neuvirth said. “For me, I just have another motivation to play for my family now.”

Of course, it also helps I’ve yet to see Neuvirth yawn or show up to practice with bags under his eyes. He has escaped any late-night drama with an eight-day road trip to start the season, and for now, he apparently has a rare lifetime pass for any early morning feedings.  

“I have an amazing fiancee. She takes care of her (Emily) as much as she needs to,” Neuvirth said. “I usually put her to bed at 10-10:30. During the night, Karolina goes and feeds her in the living room, and I’m a deep sleeper, so she doesn’t wake me up.”

As Gudasová has kept an eye on the cradle, Neuvirth has secured the crease. He’s allowed three goals in his two starts this season with a .956 save percentage, which has initiated the debate for more playing time.

Interestingly, adapting to a new addition is something Neuvirth has also discussed with teammate and fellow netminder, Brian Elliott, who went through a similar set of circumstances with his son, Owen, last season in Calgary. Elliott called that first month with the Flames “a huge adjustment” and his October numbers reflected that.

Six games into the season, Neuvirth apparently has it all figured out. 

Of course, a good night’s sleep has a way of bringing clarity to the situation.