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.

Flyers will face New York Islanders again in annual rookie game

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Flyers will face New York Islanders again in annual rookie game

While the Flyers have not announced the start of their rookie and training camp, they did provide an indication Tuesday of when the camps will be.

For the third straight season, the Flyers and New York Islanders will square off Sept. 12 in their annual rookie game. This time, it returns to New York.

The game will be at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 at the Northwell Health Ice Center, the Islanders' practice facility in East Meadow, New York. According to Newsday's Andrew Gross, ticket proceeds will benefit the Islanders' Children's Foundation.

In years past, the Flyers have streamed the games on their official website.

Last year, the Flyers-Islanders rookie game was on Sept. 13, 2017, two days after rookie camp began and two days before the main camp opened.

The rookie game marks the official end of rookie camp, so by the process of elimination, a safe guess would be the Flyers' rookie camp will be Sept. 10 and training camp likely opening a day or two after the game.

The Islanders beat the Flyers, 4-3, in overtime last September. The Flyers won the first game two years ago. From 2007 to 2014, the Flyers and Capitals faced each other in their annual rookie games.

Rookie games are fun because they're the first glimpse of prospects and with the Flyers, there's a ton to be excited about — even if signing James van Riemsdyk accelerates their process (see story).

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Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, cracks NHL Network's top 20 active defensemen

Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, cracks NHL Network's top 20 active defensemen

A young Flyers defenseman cracked the NHL Network's top 20 defensemen list, but it's not exactly who you are thinking.

Shayne Gostisbehere, not Ivan Provorov, was listed Sunday night as the league's 17th best blueliner as NHL Network continued its nine-part series looking at the game's top players.

That's not a slight to Gostisbehere by any means, but many would argue that Provorov's overall game is far more in tune of a top-tier player than Gostisbehere.

Here is NHL Network Ken Daneyko's explanation for "Ghost," who ranks right behind Boston's Torey Krug and ahead of Carolina's Dougie Hamilton:

"He really came into his own last year. This kid is dynamic, and for me, I think there are some defensive liabilities, but because how offensive the game has become and defensemen being part of that offense, Gostisbehere can do it all. He's shifty and can make a pass in the blink of an eye for a great scoring chance."

Gostisbehere had a frustrating sophomore season in 2016-17 after exploding onto the scene in 2015-16. Last season, though, he rebounded in grand fashion.

The 25-year-old finished fourth in the NHL among defensemen in points with 65. He led all defensemen in power-play points (33) and was tied for the league lead with seven power-play goals.

His offensive production returned — actually increased substantially — to his rookie season level, when he scored at a 0.72 points per game clip in 2015-16. Last season that number was 0.83.

But Gostisbehre's defensive game began to round into place. He credited that to "a little more snot," but the player we saw in his own end was far better than what we've seen before.

We can chalk some of that up to Dave Hakstol putting Gostisbehere with Provorov in late December. The pair became dynamic because, at any moment, either could jump up in the offensive zone and create, but Provorov was the pair's anchor.

“He’s a 1,000 of years better than me defensively,” Gostisbehere said in April. “We use that to our advantage and it really showed as a pair. Provy’s very good defensively, but offensively, he took another step.

"He’s probably one of the best, if not the best two-way defenseman in the NHL.”

Provorov did not totally get snubbed by the NHL Network. Daneyko had Provorov on the bubble and if we return to this list after the 2018-19 season, it's safe to say Provorov will likely, at least, make the leap.

"For such a young age, poise, good in all three zones and only getting better," Daneyko said of Provorov. "He moves the puck and has good offensive instinct. He's going to be a real good player for a long time."

Provorov, 21, was tied for the league lead among defensemen with 17 goals in his second NHL campaign but didn't post ludicrous overall numbers — just 41 points and not many on the power play.

But Provorov played the tough, shutdown minutes (see story). He led the team in ice time with 24:09 per game, more than 2 1/2 minutes more than Sean Couturier's 21:35 and 2 minutes and 42 seconds more than Gostisbehere.

We're splitting hairs here, really. Lists are lists and a good list often creates debate. Does it matter that Gostisbehere, not Provorov, made the NHL Network's top 20 defensemen list? Not really, but it's still a neat honor.

If anything, it's another testament that the Flyers are doing things right even if the process at the rink is slower than fans would like.

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