Sean Couturier injury shakes things up for Flyers

Sean Couturier injury shakes things up for Flyers

The one thing going right for the Flyers took a hit Saturday.

Sean Couturier missed the team's game against the Sabres with a lower-body injury and is considered day to day. The Flyers' first line of Couturier, Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny has been the only group producing consistent offense for a team that hasn't won consecutive games since Nov. 5-10.

Couturier missed a chunk of the preseason because of a knee injury he suffered during a charity game in August.

His absence is big considering all that the top-line center does for the Flyers. Not only does Couturier have 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in his last 15 games, but he also entered Saturday leading Flyers forwards in ice time per game (21:32) and faceoffs taken (326), while playing the club's fourth-most penalty-kill minutes (63:21).

With Couturier out, head coach Dave Hakstol was forced to shuffle his lineup significantly.

Claude Giroux shifted back to the middle and centered Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk, who jumped up to the first line.

Jordan Weal entered the lineup after a pair of healthy scratches but didn't play center and instead was slotted as the fourth-line right wing, while Jakub Voracek joined the second unit with Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds.

The Flyers are right back at it Sunday against the Jets in Winnipeg at 3 p.m. on NBCSP+ and then play Wednesday (at Flames), Friday (at Oilers) and Saturday (at Canucks) next week.

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Flyers' 30th-ranked PK takes hit with latest injury to Michael Raffl

Flyers' 30th-ranked PK takes hit with latest injury to Michael Raffl

Michael Raffl's injury didn't look good Monday night when the Flyers' winger skated off the ice without putting any pressure on his left leg.

What didn't look good turned out to be the reality Tuesday.

Raffl will miss approximately four to six weeks with a lower-body injury, which appears to be to his left knee.

During the second period of the Flyers' 4-1 loss to the Avalanche, Raffl was checked into the backboards by defenseman Patrik Nemeth. He dropped to both knees and was unable to get up before being attended to by head trainer Jim McCrossin.

As the Flyers have gotten deeper at forward, Raffl has gone more unnoticed, dropping to a bottom-six role. However, he is an underrated player because of his experience, penalty-kill work and strength on the puck.

Among Flyers forwards, Raffl was playing the third-most shorthanded minutes, behind only Scott Laughton and Sean Couturier. He had just one giveaway and was fifth on the team in hits with 16.

The Flyers' penalty kill, which entered Tuesday with an NHL-worst 10 goals allowed and a 30th-ranked percentage (68.8.), will now be without one of its better pieces.

"This is a team of togetherness, it's not one or two guys doing everything," goalie Brian Elliott said Monday. "He's a big player for us."

The Flyers are already without winger James van Riemsdyk, who was ruled out Oct. 8 for five to six weeks because of a lower-body injury. An upper-body injury also kept center Nolan Patrick out for three games from Oct. 13-18.

The likely replacements for Raffl are centers Corban Knight and Mikhail Vorobyev (see story). Both can play winger if needed. Vorobyev is a 21-year-old rookie known for his passing and skill, while the 28-year-old Knight fits the PK mold.

"During his time with us in Lehigh Valley, [Knight has] become one of our top PKers within the organization and that's what he built his training camp on," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said last week. "He's earned the opportunity here." 

The Flyers could also place Raffl on injured reserve and call up a winger from the Phantoms or activate goalie Michal Neuvirth, who has been practicing and is nearing a return after opening the season on IR.

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Flyers forward Travis Konecny leaves practice with apparent injury

Flyers forward Travis Konecny leaves practice with apparent injury

VOORHEES, N.J. — Within minutes of the start of Friday’s practice, the Flyers had lost another forward to an apparent injury.

Travis Konecny left the ice grimacing in pain after taking a shot to the inside of his skate. Konecny skated slowly to the bench, where trainer Jim McCrossin tended to him, before attempting to skate and participate in drills. Moments later, Konecny left practice and went inside the dressing room. The Flyers had no medical update on the right winger or his availability for Saturday afternoon’s game against Vegas.

The Flyers are already making up for the loss of left winger James van Riemsdyk and most recently second-line center Nolan Patrick, who is scheduled to miss seven to 10 days with an upper-body injury. General manager Ron Hextall knows the Flyers won’t receive any league-wide sympathy. 

“Look at Anaheim, they've got a pretty good record and they’ve got a few guys down,” Hextall said. “We’re not going to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. We have more depth right now than I think we’ve had in the past. The guys now will go into a little bit more significant positions and have to produce.” 

While not specifically singling out one player, Hextall could have easily alluded to Jordan Weal, as he stepped into Patrick’s position centering Oskar Lindblom and Konecny — a line that might change by Saturday depending on Konecny’s status.

Regardless, the opportunity is one that wouldn’t have existed for Weal, who was a healthy scratch Wednesday in Ottawa in favor of Dale Weise. Weal was provided every opportunity to become a top-nine forward throughout the preseason, but never had a moment in which he seized that role. With the loss of JVR, Tuesday’s home opener marked Weal’s season debut as he played a team-low 9:45. 

Now Dave Hakstol needs Weal out of necessity as the Flyers' injury situation at forward this season is already starting to look a lot like what plagued their defense last season. A year ago, the Flyers utilized 10 different defensemen in the first 14 games of the season.

Coming into the season, the forward position was one of strength and depth for the Flyers, an area that is being tested just five games into the season.  

“We have 12 forwards right now and that’s what we’re going with,” Hextall said. “These guys are here for a reason, and sometimes if the fit isn’t right, that’s why you do call someone up, but right now the fit’s right so we’re going to go with the 12 that we have.”

Injured forward Corban Knight continues to practice with the team but said it’s now up to the front office to determine if he’s ready. Hextall believes Knight is getting close but still needs a little more practice time and physical contact before he can play in a game.

If Konecny can’t play Saturday and Knight is unavailable, the Flyers would have no choice but to pluck someone off the Phantoms' roster, whether that’s Taylor Leier, Nicolas Aube-Kubel or Tyrell Goulbourne. 

“That’s the bottom line," Hextall said. "We’re a team. We’re going to stick together and we’re going to get through it.”

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