Flyers

Sean Couturier excited to play for Team North America at World Cup after summer rehabbing

Sean Couturier excited to play for Team North America at World Cup after summer rehabbing

VOORHEES, N.J. — The last time Sean Couturier played a meaningful game, he got drilled into the side boards by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
 
Couturier suffered an AC sprain in his left shoulder during the second period of Game 1 against the Capitals and missed the remainder of the playoffs.
 
“Most of the summer was a lot of rehab, trying to strengthen that shoulder,” the Flyers' center, who is practicing at Skate Zone, said Monday. “Now I feel good. I’m not gonna lie, it took me longer than I thought.”
 
The 23-year-old reported early. He’ll travel to Montreal on Sept. 4 for Team North America’s training camp and the upcoming World Cup of Hockey Tournament next month.
 
“I’m trying to skate as much as I can to get back in the rhythm,” Couturier said. “I think it’s going to be tough to get in the rhythm right away. We’re not used to playing that high-level hockey in September, but every guy on every team is going to be like that.
 
“Once we get out there, the level is going to be pretty high right off the bat. I think it can help me personally be ready for the season and step right into game action.”

Eight Flyers will participate in the eight-team competition. The others: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Mark Streit, Radko Gudas, Jakub Voracek and Michal Neuvirth.
 
Team North America is comprised of age 23-and-under players.
 
“I don’t really listen too much to the hype and stuff in the summer, but we can definitely surprise some people,” Couturier predicted. “I don’t think there’s much attention for our team. Really no one knows what we’re gonna look like.
 
“We’re gonna try and surprise the world, basically, and try to win the tournament. We’re not going there as tourists. We feel we have a good group and a lot of skill and speed and we’ll surprise some teams for sure.”
 
Couturier is a perfect North American because he has dual citizenship — U.S. and Canada. Though born in Phoenix, he spent nearly his entire childhood in Canada.
 
“For me, I’m dual citizenship, so that’s the way I see it,” Couturier said of playing favorites. “It’s a little different, but at the same time the mindset is more about trying to win the tournament. Once you’re out there and on a team, you’re just trying to win and I think that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
 
This tournament offers Couturier a chance to test his shoulder competitively before preseason NHL games start.
 
Obviously, the Flyers will open camp here without some of their best players.
 
“Everyone’s had a long summer, so I think everyone’s kind of looking forward to getting back into action,” Couturier said. “We’re lucky. We’re fortunate to get back into action earlier than we usually do. I’m just happy to be part of it and live the experience.
 
“I know a little what to expect international-wise — I went to the Worlds two years ago. This is going to be high level. No easy games.”
 
Loose pucks
Ten players, including Gostisbehere and free-agent Russian forward Roman Lyubimov, who was signed in July, are also working out at Skate Zone, which is under major reconstruction. … Because of construction, the Phantoms' dressing room no longer exists. The Flyers have a logistics problem of where the majority of their players are going to dress during camp. ... Construction won’t be completed until sometime this fall. … As part of the club’s 50th anniversary celebration, the Flyers have decorated walls throughout their dressing room area with steel plates from old newspaper pages, and other media, commemorating their two Stanley Cups, plus other historic moments from the past. … Brayden Schenn, who will miss the first three games of the regular season on a suspension, will play in preseason.

Flyers weekly observations: A serious concern, a roster decision, more

Flyers weekly observations: A serious concern, a roster decision, more

The Flyers are .500 entering next week after a 2-1-0 week.

Let's look at some observations from the week that was, which saw some goaltending issues, a defensive pair breaking up and a rookie potentially on the brink of demotion.

• Ron Hextall might be forced to do something about his goaltending situation — I know, obviously. But Brian Elliott has allowed too many soft goals, been too unreliable. The team defense has been porous, yes, but you need the goalie to make some saves. The Devils' second goal Saturday was just not a good one to give up. The four goals he yielded Tuesday weren't great, either.

Cal Pickard is a fringe NHL backup and Michal Neuvirth can't stay healthy. I don't think it's time to rush Carter Hart up, but the Phantoms have three goalies with Alex Lyon healthy. I think we'll see Lyon with the Flyers at some point. I think he would be here now if he hadn't suffered an injury himself. But the Flyers simply need better goaltending. Elliott was better Saturday, but the goaltending simply has to improve.

-Dougherty

• You have to wonder if the Flyers are contemplating a decision with Mikhail Vorobyev.

The decision being on whether to send him to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

With Nolan Patrick's return and Jordan Weal's showing, Vorobyev has become the odd man out down the middle. Weal is producing alongside Travis Konecny while showing the blend of skill and all-around effort at center.

The Flyers won't move Jori Lehtera out of his fourth-line center role and playing Vorobyev on the wing doesn't make a ton of sense for his development. With 28-year-old Corban Knight here to be an extra center, having a 21-year-old rookie sit doesn't jive with the Flyers' ways.

Lineups can change after one or two games. Vorobyev was the preseason darling and started fast before a quiet four-game stretch put him out. He'll need some help to get back in the lineup. If not, playing with the Phantoms could be the course of action. 

-Hall

• Dave Hakstol's decision to break up Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere Saturday afternoon was an underrated excellent coaching decision. Provorov has had a worrisome start to the season and while I like the potential of a Provorov-Ghost pair, I just don't think it's a good fit. Provorov had his best game yet Saturday but still had two concerning turnovers (see story). While I have full confidence that he'll get back to the player we've come to expect, it is concerning to see him make the uncharacteristic mistakes he's made.

I think he'll perform better away from Gostisbehere. It also spreads out the defense, which with this group, they need. It was too top-heavy with Provorov-Gostisbehere.

-Dougherty

• Radko Gudas typically gets blown up for his mistakes but he's been quietly good.

He doesn't try to do too much, he just plays his game and understands his role.

When he's not being realized, that's a good thing. And he hasn't been the Flyers' problem on defense thus far. He's a team-best plus-4, he's blocking shots and he's not committing penalties.

Good stuff from Gudas so far as a bottom-pair defenseman.

- Hall

• Your Robert Hagg observation: Yes, the Flyers' second-year defenseman has more goals and points than Steven Stamkos. It won't last for long, so we'll savor it for now.

Jokes aside, Hagg has looked so much better this season with the puck, showing that offensive flash he had as a prospect in Sweden. He still needs to improve his 1-on-1 coverage and Thursday in Columbus, we saw some blips. Hagg's exit-zone passes still need improvement and he certainly can tighten up his defensive coverage this season, but overall, Hagg is evolving a bit.

-Dougherty

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Don't worry about Ivan Provorov, he can go from 'good to great'

Don't worry about Ivan Provorov, he can go from 'good to great'

Ivan Provorov always stays at one level.

When he speaks after a game, it's hard to tell if the Flyers won or lost.

The 21-year-old is that calm and together.

His game is very much the same. Everyone has become so accustomed to Provorov's robotic consistency that when his play wavers ever so faintly, a panic almost sets in.

Wait, was that Provy? He messes up?

"It's part of hockey, you can't be perfect," Provorov said Saturday. "Nobody is perfect."

The funny thing is Provorov was saying this after evaluating what was arguably his best game of the season. There were some areas he didn't like. He came in with one point and a minus-5 rating through seven games. 

In Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Devils (see observations), Provorov notched two assists, blocked four shots, played a team-high 23:24 and was a plus-2. 

He collected the primary assist on the game-winning goal, a play in which he sent a pass along the wall from the back boards in the defensive zone, springing Jakub Voracek for a breakaway attempt to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead with 3:10 left in the third period.

Provorov's recollection of the play was impressive. He wasn't just trying to fling the puck out of the D-zone to briefly relieve pressure.

"I think it was a D-to-D pass from Travis [Sanheim], I looked one way and I thought I was going to rim it the other way," he said. "But I saw I had two guys beat if I go on my backhand up the wall and that's what I did, and luckily it went by the D and Jakey went on the breakaway and scored."

Following a better output, there was no switch to Provorov's postgame demeanor — that's not who he is or what he's about.

But while the tone of his voice didn't change, his message spoke volumes.

"I don't think I've played bad this year," Provorov said. "I think it's a few bad bounces, a little bad luck. But overall, I think I started good and I'm going to continue to get better and go from good to great."

If Provorov's performance didn't ease concerns, the "good to great" statement should. The 2015 No. 7 overall pick is not the player to worry about on this Flyers team. When he's human, he's still effective. He's also coming off a Grade 3 AC separation suffered in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It wasn't expected to impact his offseason or the start of this season, but who knows.

Nonetheless, Provorov's rookie year should be a good reminder of how fast he's able to adjust after a mistake or rough night. Many remember his embarrassing stumble and turnover during a 7-4 loss to the Blackhawks, his third NHL game. He finished the defeat as a minus-5 and was a minus-9 through his first 11 contests.

A 19-year-old could have crumbled.

Instead, Provorov ended up setting a franchise rookie record with his 21:58 ice time per game and earned the Barry Ashbee Award as the Flyers' top defenseman.

He hasn't been a question mark since and shouldn't be now.

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