Claude Giroux

Trip to Voorhees brings up old memories for Lindros

Trip to Voorhees brings up old memories for Lindros

VOORHEES, N.J. — Eric Lindros doesn’t have to lace up the skates and go through a physically exhausting practice, but the Flyers' Hall of Famer hasn’t had much time to catch his breath either, as he attempts to squeeze in as many activities and appearances during his week-long stay in the Delaware Valley.

Lindros on Wednesday stopped by the Skate Zone in Voorhees to visit with members of the organization and players on the team. It was his first visit to the practice facility since December 2011 when he returned for the Alumni Game at Citizens Bank Park.

“This is a beautiful facility they have here. We got off the highway and there’s Vito’s Pizza. That used to be the spot we’d pop in after practice,” Lindros said, realizing how landmarks have changed while others remain the same. “I always realized it was a big part (of my life). I came here as a 19-year-old with some great vets I had a chance to play with.”

Lindros made numerous commitments, including Tuesday night’s “Skate with 88” event in West Chester, the Flyers' Alumni outdoor game in Hershey Friday night, a sold-out appearance at Oxford Valley Mall in Langhorne on Saturday all sandwiched around the marquee event — the No. 88 retirement ceremony prior to Thursday’s game against the Maple Leafs.

“It’s an honor,” said Wayne Simmonds, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Ontario. “He’s one of my favorite players growing up so to get a chance to watch his number raised to the rafters at Wells Fargo is going to be special. He’s one of the all-time greats if you ask me.”

Along with Lindros' wife and three kids, Lindros’ family will be in attendance, including his father Carl and his mother Bonnie, as well as, his brother Brett and sister Robin.

“Wonderful thrill. I just went through the walkthrough this morning,” Lindros said, “Certainly excited, really excited. I feel honored to be part of it. I feel like the names that are up in the rafters are incredible names and after tomorrow it will be extremely special.”

Since sharing the stage with Legion of Doom teammate John LeClair during their induction into the Flyers' Hall of Fame in November 2014, Lindros was also enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in November 2016, and Thursday night, he will become the sixth player in the organization to have his jersey number retired.

“It’s been great," Lindros said. "The last year and a bit has been spectacular for us and our family. It gives you a chance to reflect and think back to good times and just how lucky you are to have played with certain guys.”

Debating Brayden Schenn trade? Sean Couturier playing role in it

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Debating Brayden Schenn trade? Sean Couturier playing role in it

NEW YORK — For two straight seasons, Brayden Schenn made a living doing it.

Roaming the middle from circle to circle on the power play, ready to let a shot rip, punch home a tip pass or flush a rebound.

Schenn mastered the role by understanding how to complement the playmakers surrounding him. He turned the art into 28 man-advantage goals from 2015-17, fourth-most in the NHL over that span.

When Schenn was traded to the Blues on draft night last June, the Flyers' top power-play unit suddenly had a job opening.

It caught Couturier's eye.

"Yeah, I saw an opportunity," he said Tuesday following morning skate at Madison Square Garden. "Didn't get it early in the year, but as the year went on, got the chance to get a look in that spot and just trying to capitalize on it."

As part of a career year that still has half a season to go, Couturier is seizing the opportunity to fill Schenn's skates. Three of his seven goals during the Flyers' four-game winning streak have come on the power play. On the season, he has six man-advantage markers in 43 games after scoring just three over 416 games the six seasons prior.

"He's a smart player, he watched someone for such a long time like he did with Schenner," Jakub Voracek said. "He knows what to do and we talk about it a lot, we talk a lot of power play, how to get better, what to do when we have a bad game to make sure it doesn't happen again."

With perimeter weapons in Voracek, Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere to go along with a net-front presence like Wayne Simmonds, Couturier's intelligence of proper spacing and finding open areas has made the transition for the power play seamless.

"When you're such a smart hockey player, you know when to go the net, you know when to stop. I wish I had that gift. I always swing it away around the net," Voracek said with a laugh. "It's different with me, too, because I always try to create something. He knows when he plays with me and G that he's going to get the puck around the net eventually. So he stops there, he goes there and he's having a great year so far."

So is the power play, which entered Tuesday's game against the Rangers sixth among the NHL in success rate with a 21.9 percentage, while posting a 24.3 percentage on the road, good for third best.

"My job being in the middle is to be ready to jump on loose pucks, let the guys on the outside — Jake, G and Ghost — to do plays and I just try to create myself a shooting spot, or if it's a loose puck, try to be strong on it and get it back," Couturier said. "Just supporting all over the ice is probably the biggest thing."

Simmonds, second in the NHL since the 2013-14 season with 66 man-advantage tallies, said his teammates saw the ability in Couturier.

"He's done really well, extremely well, obviously you can tell by his 25 goals," Simmonds said. "Point-per-game player, I think a lot of people didn't expect this kind of offense to come out of Coots, but everyone knew he could do it. He's got his confidence, he's got his swagger and I think if you watch him with the puck, he's a completely different player. When you have your confidence, it just propels you to the next level.

"He's having a coming out party this year and it's really great to see."

Couturier continued the party last time out when the Flyers beat the Devils, 5-3, on Saturday night. The 25-year-old center scored two more goals, one off a nice power-play connection with Giroux.

"I think he's getting more opportunities. When you're in that spot on the power play, you get to showcase a few different abilities," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "The quick release that he scored on the other night — first of all, it's a hell of a play from G through the three sticks and it's a real good finish by Coots. I think with success, you probably feel a little bit better about those opportunities, but I haven't seen a great difference because I've seen Coots score probably four of five goals this year on second and third opportunities at the goal crease. I think there's some depth to his abilities in and around the net."

Notes and tidbits
• The Flyers are looking for their fifth straight win as they open their four-game regular-season series with the Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m./NBCSP). With a regulation win, the Flyers (48 points) can leapfrog the Rangers (49) in the Metropolitan Division standings. They come in two points behind the Islanders (50) for the Eastern conference's second wild-card spot.

• Forward Taylor Leier reenters the lineup after three straight healthy scratches. Tyrell Goulbourne, who made his NHL debut on Jan. 6 and has played the previous three games, will sit in Leier's place.

"Taylor's case, Taylor has been out of the lineup for the last couple of games, but he didn't come out because he played a poor game," Hakstol said. "We put a different player with different abilities in the lineup. So for Taylor, just come back, do the things that he does well and he'll help our team.

"Taylor is a confident player and the biggest challenge sometimes in that role, when you're in and out of the lineup, is the work that you do on the days when you're out. And Taylor does that work."

• Here is the Flyers' projected lineup, which sees the return of Gostisbehere, who missed Saturday's game with an illness:

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny

Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek

Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds

Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere

Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald

Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott

Michal Neuvirth

Healthy scratches: Forwards Tyrell Goulbourne (healthy) and Dale Weise (healthy), and defenseman Travis Sanheim (healthy).

Bye week doesn't slow Couturier-led Flyers

Bye week doesn't slow Couturier-led Flyers

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Sean Couturier has been the Flyers' goal-to guy all season. 

Saturday night was no different.

The Flyers' top-line center had his third straight two-goal game in a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Couturier, who was left off the Metropolitan Division All-Star team announced Wednesday, was arguably the best player on the ice for both teams with a three-point night and a plus-2 rating.

Travis Konecny, Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl also scored for the Flyers, who have reeled off four straight wins while the Devils have dropped their last six.

The Flyers also snapped a three-game losing streak at the Prudential Center. Their last win there came on Feb. 16, 2016.

This was the first of four meetings between divisional rivals with all four games being played in a span of exactly one month. Their next matchup comes Jan. 20 in Philadelphia.

• The Devils struck first with the Nico Hischier line taking advantage of the Nolan Patrick line and the Flyers' third defensive pairing of Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas. Hischier connected with Jesper Bratt, who made it 1-0. The Flyers simply lost coverage, as the Devils gained time and space after crossing the blue line. Gudas made the situation worse by leaving his feet and with Sanheim misplaying the puck along the boards, the Flyers were completely lost defensively.

• With the Patrick line facing the Hischier line for their second shift, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol found a way to get Couturier out on the ice with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. It was Couturier who won a puck battle along the wall and then moved it out to the point, where the rebound came straight out to Couturier. He then outmuscled two Devils, including Hischier, to score his 24th goal of the season.

• With Patrick out there, I gave the Devils the clear advantage against the Hischier line. With Couturier against the Devils' top line, the Flyers had the edge with that matchup.

• On their fourth attempt, the Devils' power play finally answered. Jersey moved the puck around the umbrella before setting up Kyle Palmieri with a one-timer that he ripped past Brian Elliott for a 2-1 Devils lead. Elliott couldn't quite make it to the post to seal off the shot. Typically, Elliott has anticipated those one-timer shots, but this may have caught him by surprise.

• On their first power-play opportunity, the Flyers capitalized. They broke down the Devils' four-man box. It all started with Couturier drawing a pair of defenders around the goal line and then finding the open passing lane to Jakub Voracek in the slot, as he used the back of his skate to kick it to Claude Giroux for the one-timer.

Sure, Voracek makes a nice kick pass, but Couturier, coupled with a Simmonds screen and an eventual tip-in on Cory Schneider, set up the goal and a 2-2 game.

• The one guy unaffected by the bye week is Couturier, who scored a power-play goal as he worked his way into the soft spot in the Devils' slot. Couturier blasted a one-timer past Schneider. That’s now three straight two-goal games for Couturier, and a big 3-2 lead after two periods.

• Travis Konecny was patiently waiting for several seconds for the two-line pass to spring him for a breakaway, and it all started with Couturier doing the grunt work below the goal line, winning the puck battle, and working the puck to Ivan Provorov, who found Konecny at the Devils' blue line, and the 4-2 Flyers lead.

• Penalties were a real problem for the Flyers in this game, as they were whistled for the first five minors — all stick infractions. In fact, Patrick committed a pair of high-sticking penalties in a span of 47 seconds of ice time. Aside from the Palmieri goal, the Flyers' PK was very strong. On their fifth opportunity, they pressured the Devils, not allowing Jersey to even set up.

• The Flyers' blue line appeared to be completely out of sorts early on, especially Brandon Manning, who committed a penalty, lost an edge, got beaten on a play and then nearly put a puck in his own net off his skate. With Shayne Gostisbehere out of the lineup because of an illness, Hakstol had to reconfigure his pairings, and with a five-day layoff, the bottom two pairings weren’t in sync at all.