Flyers-Blues 5 things: Returning from holiday break with different look

Flyers (20-12-4) at Blues (18-12-5)
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The Flyers are back from the holiday break and should look somewhat different when they play the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on Wednesday night.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. A boost from Coots?
The Flyers will get their top defensive forward Sean Couturier back, who has missed 16 straight games with a left knee injury.

“Coots has a shot at playing soon,” general manager Ron Hextall said Tuesday at practice.“Hopefully he plays [Wednesday]. We will probably flip Reader (Matt Read) to LTIR.”

Couturier’s presence would be timely and welcomed given forward Michael Raffl — playing well on the top line — is out one to two weeks after suffering a knee sprain right before the holiday break.

Couturier, of course, won’t join the team’s top line. He won’t play on the second unit, either, because head coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t want to break up Travis Konecny, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. So Couturier appears set for a third-line role.

“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 Tuesday. “If he’s available, it would be nice to have him back.”

2. Leier sees the top
So who takes Raffl’s first-line duty with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek?

Make that 22-year-old Taylor Leier in his 15th NHL game and ninth of the season.

“If I get put up there, they are putting me up there for a reason and that’s to play my game,” Leier said Tuesday. “I’ll stick to my strengths. Bring speed. Those guys are world-class talents. It’ll be nice to play with them if I get the opportunity.”

Leier was called up on Dec. 5 from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, where he posted six goals and 14 assists in 22 games. With the Flyers, he has a goal and an assist in eight games this season, receiving 8:28 of ice time.

“He’s done a good job in a couple different roles,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t seem to change his game. He’s a pretty intelligent two-way player, responsible defensively. Each and every night he’s brought good pace and tenacity.”

Speaking of changes, defenseman Nick Schultz is expected to play his first game since Nov. 11, as Brandon Manning will sit as a healthy scratch.

3. A look at St. Louis
After going 14-7-3 in their first 24 games, the Blues have lost seven of 11.

However, St. Louis poses a much bigger challenge at home than on the road. The Blues, who went to the Western Conference Final last season, are 13-2-4 at the Scottrade Center compared to 5-10-1 away from it. They’re also allowing a league-worst 3.69 goals per game on the road but just 2.26 at home, seventh-best in the NHL.

St. Louis, which ranks second in penalty-kill percentage (87.4) and seventh in power-play percentage (21.3), will also have center Paul Stastny back following his one-game absence because of an upper-body injury.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere has lit the lamp just once in his last 21 games dating back to Nov. 8. He’s gone 13 games without a goal, matching his longest drought from last season in which he was the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up. Against the Blues, he’ll have a new defensive partner in Schultz.

Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko is a handful. The explosive winger is fourth in the NHL with 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists). The 25-year-old is pointless over his last two games. He has not gone three straight games without a point this season.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is 8-6-3 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 19 career games against St. Louis.

• Blues goalie Jake Allen has faced the Flyers only once. He allowed four goals on 31 shots in a 4-3 loss in Philadelphia back on Dec. 21, 2015.

• The Flyers are 4-0-2 in their last six meetings with the Blues.

• The Flyers are coming off their worst margin of defeat (four goals) this season vs. the Devils.