Jordan Weal

Sean Couturier part of collision at Flyers' practice

Sean Couturier part of collision at Flyers' practice

VOORHEES, N.J. — Sean Couturier was the first player off the ice during Tuesday’s practice, and it wasn’t a good scene.

Couturier collided with teammate Radko Gudas and required the assistance of head athletic trainer Jim McCrossin to be taken back to the locker room. Gudas appeared distraught regarding the incidental collision and declined to answer any questions regarding the play that led to the contact.    

However, Wayne Simmonds didn’t seem to express much concern regarding Couturier’s health and his availability for Game 4.

“Coots will be fine,” Simmonds said. “I’m not worried about Coots.”

Dave Hakstol provided no update, but Couturier is unquestionably the Flyers' most indispensable player entering a pivotal Game 4. The Flyers' head coach sensed a change was needed following Sunday’s 5-1 loss, and Hakstol’s latest plan is to reunite Jakub Voracek with Couturier and Claude Giroux on the top line for Wednesday’s game.

“Was I surprised? It’s the playoffs and things like that happen,” Voracek said. “When you lose the game you want to shake things up to help a team win the game. The coaches thought it was the best idea to put us back together, so we’re just going to roll with it.”

Hakstol broke up that dynamic trio after the first 26 games of the season with the Flyers record at 8-11-7. They were the most dominant line in the NHL with a league-leading 25 goals among them, but they had generated 43 percent of the team’s offensive production and Hakstol felt the need to make a change as the Flyers were too top-heavy.

“We haven’t seen it together for a long time,” Hakstol said. “We didn’t like the depth of our forward group at that point in time. I think we feel a little bit differently about our forwards now." 

If Couturier can’t suit up Wednesday night, then Hakstol will likely resort to one of two possibilities. Either slide Giroux to center, despite him playing left wing all season, or elevate rookie Nolan Patrick to the top line and move Scott Laughton back to the center position.  

“We’re not going to jump to conclusions here,” Giroux said. “We’ll see how Coots is, but if it does come down to that, whatever’s best for the team, you go ahead and do it. I think everybody in this room feels like that.”

Regardless of Couturier’s health, Hakstol in all probability will scratch rookie Oskar Lindblom in favor of Jordan Weal, who led the Flyers with four points in four games against the Penguins during the regular season.

“It’s an adjustment. This takes another level,” Hakstol said. “Oskar hasn’t been able to compete probably as much as he would like to with the puck and offensively. There’s a little more on the line and the time for opportunity is a little bit shorter.”

The only combination Hakstol left intact was the fourth line of Laughton, Jori Lehtera and Matt Read.

Regardless of Hakstol’s reconfigured lines, if the Flyers don’t contain Sidney Crosby (three goals, four assists), the series may not return to Philadelphia after Game 4.  

“We’ve got to take care of the puck a little bit more. We can’t be scared making plays out there,” Giroux said. “Sometimes you start playing too safe and that gets you in trouble.

Hornqvist out
Penguins right winger Patric Hornqvist will miss Game 4 with an upper-body injury. Hornqvist is considered an energy player who scored the 1-0 Cup-clinching goal in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.

According to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Penguins' power play had a 26.2 percent rate with Hornqvist in the lineup and a 12.9 percent rate without him this season.

Flyers steal a point, but not the sweep from Penguins

Flyers steal a point, but not the sweep from Penguins

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — The Penguins completed a four-game season sweep of the Flyers on Sunday after winning the finale, 5-4, in overtime at PPG Paints Arena.

Sean Couturier tied the game at 4-4 with 43 seconds remaining in regulation as the Flyers peppered goaltender Matt Murray with a season-high 45 shots on net. It gave the Flyers a crucial point in the playoff hunt, but it went for naught as the Bryan Rust deflected the puck past Petr Mrazek, who relieved Alex Lyon in the second period after Pittsburgh's third goal.

The win gave the Pens (92 points) a three-point cushion on the Flyers (89 points) for the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. As of the final horn Sunday, the Flyers are tied with Columbus in the Metro with 89 points. They have a three-point cushion on New Jersey for the final wild-card spot and a six-point cushion on Florida on the outside looking in.

It’s the first time the Penguins have swept a season series from the Flyers since 2006-07. 

Jordan Weal led the Flyers' offensive charge with his first career three-point game, which included a goal with two primary assists.  

Brandon Manning and Travis Sanheim also scored for the Flyers, who are now second behind the Predators with 46 goals from their blue line.

• Sanheim opened the scoring by finding the soft spot in the Penguins' defense underneath the forwards at the end of their shift. Phil Kessel stood still and watched Sanheim snap a perfect shot over Murray’s glove hand. Sanheim has gone more with the quick snap shot for better accuracy rather than the winding slap shot that he used more frequently earlier this season.

• The Flyers displayed a first-period attacking style we hadn’t seen in a while. They caught the Penguins out of position on their second goal, as Manning did an excellent job of leading the rush and then communicating with Weal to get the puck back before Manning uncorked a slapper that beat Murray.

• Murray yielded some big rebounds in the first period the Flyers weren’t able to capitalize on. Coming back from injury, Murray still doesn’t appear as if he’s completely comfortable.

• The Flyers answered with a power-play goal after Travis Konecny drew a cross-check penalty against Brian Dumoulin. Weal jumped in from his position on the half wall to pounce on a rebound and fire it past Murray to tie the game at 3-3 shortly before the second intermission.

• Following the third goal, Dave Hakstol made the decision to replace Lyon with Mrazek. Hakstol has had a quick trigger when he senses his goaltending has been soft or the team needs a jolt.

• Classic Crosby gave the Penguins a 4-3 lead. Using his body as a shield and protecting the puck against the Flyers' best one-on-one defender, Couturier, Crosby fired a wrister that Mrazek, who appeared to be leaning toward the near post, couldn't handle.

• As a result of a Jakub Voracek minor, the Flyers surrendered a power-play goal just 34 seconds into the second period. Respecting Kessel’s lethal shot from the left circle, Radko Gudas came out, which gave Patric Hornqvist room underneath around the crease to make a turnaround move and fire a shot toward the far post and tie the game at 2-2.

Who's odd man out when Wayne Simmonds returns?

Who's odd man out when Wayne Simmonds returns?

Going End to End today is NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: What should the Flyers do when Wayne Simmonds returns?

Dougherty
This question really is, who comes out of the lineup when Simmonds comes back? Since the NHL roster limit is, well, no longer a limit, the Flyers can carry extra forwards.

That doesn’t mean Ron Hextall will not send a promising 21-year-old back to Lehigh Valley. Oskar Lindblom, because of a paper transaction, is eligible for the AHL playoffs.

Lindblom is the wild card here. Has he shown enough to stick with the Flyers? I think he has despite all of his positives (there are plenty) not showing up on the score sheet.

But, I thought the same thing after the preseason. The reality is, Lindblom hasn’t produced points. If the offense showed up more in the preseason, he probably would have stayed.

I’m afraid that is going to bite him again this time around. It shouldn’t, though.

When Simmonds returns, Lindblom should stick around. Think of it this way, Simmonds, or Lindblom, is the Flyers’ trade deadline acquisition. So someone draws out.

Thursday, Jordan Weal was in the press box. He hasn’t produced and has been given ample opportunity. Taylor Leier was back in. That spot is the one we’re looking at.

Sure, Dale Weise and Jori Lehtera could take turns going in and out too.

We should ask whether Lindblom is an upgrade over Weal, Leier, Lehtera and Weise.

Yes, he is. Which means Lindblom’s (probably) going back to the AHL.

Hall
With the way the Flyers had been playing, you almost forgot about Simmonds.

But of course, that would be silly. When Simmonds is doing what he does best, the Flyers are at another level. In fact, they're 16-1-1 when he scores a goal.

So who comes out when he comes back?

I'd like to see it be Weise. He's been scratched before and simply doesn't bring a whole lot to the table.

Simmonds returns to the second unit, while Lindblom slides to the third line but still plays a role. However, it would not surprise me if Lindblom heads back to the AHL for further development while the Flyers trust the guys that have been here.

Since Weal hasn't produced, he must now show he can understand the responsibilities of a bottom-six spot, specifically as a fourth-liner. If he can do that, he'll bring a nice scoring element alongside complementary players.

How's a third line of Lindblom, Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl sound? And a fourth line of Lehtera, Valtteri Filppula and Weal?

Ultimately, though, it very well could end up being Lindblom sent down and Weal or Leier as the scratch when Simmonds is back in action.