Patric Hornqvist

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.

Best of NHL: Hornqvist picks up where he left off as Penguins beat Capitals

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Best of NHL: Hornqvist picks up where he left off as Penguins beat Capitals

WASHINGTON -- Patric Hornqvist scored a power-play goal and assisted on another in his season debut to help the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Wednesday night in their first meeting since the playoffs.

Hornqvist assisted on a goal by Kris Letang, the defenseman's first since Feb. 4 after missing the end of last season and playoffs because of neck surgery. Hornqvist, who scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal last spring despite a broken finger on his right hand, was playing for the first time since offseason surgery to repair it.

Conor Sheary scored the Penguins' third goal as they went 3 for 6 on the power play. The Capitals' six minor penalties were a season high and contributed to their first regulation loss.

Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading eighth goal of the season in the Capitals' fourth game. Christian Djoos assisted on Ovechkin's goal and scored in his NHL debut to become the third defenseman in franchise history to score in his debut after Steve Poapst and Hall of Famer Scott Stevens.

Matt Murray stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced to pick up the victory. Braden Holtby made 33 saves for Washington (see full recap).

Wood, Zacha help Devils hand Maple Leafs 1st loss
TORONTO -- Brian Gibbons had a rare 3-on-5 goal, Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha each scored twice and the unbeaten New Jersey Devils beat Toronto 6-3 on Wednesday night to end the Maple Leafs' perfect start.

Blake Coleman also scored, and Cory Schneider made 47 saves to help New Jersey open 3-0-0 for the first time since 2014-15.

Tied 2-2 after 20 minutes, New Jersey scored twice in the second period despite being outshot 17-12.

A key moment came late in the period with the Devils taking two minors on one play. Rather than Toronto taking advantage, New Jersey killed off the penalties and scored short-handed to make it 4-2.

Jake Gardiner was unable to keep the puck in at the New Jersey blue line and two Devils broke in. William Nylander's backcheck swept the puck off Adam Henrique's stick, and the puck went off goalie Frederik Andersen to Gibbons in front.

Auston Matthews, with his third of the season, cut it to 5-3 with 6:26 remaining and the Maple Leafs on a two-man advantage. James van Riemsdyk and Dominic Moore also scored for Toronto. The Maple Leafs dropped to 3-1-0 (see full recap).

Andrighetto lifts Avalanche over Bruins
DENVER -- Sven Andrighetto scored twice, the second an empty-netter with 1:34 remaining, and Alexander Kerfoot had his first NHL goal in helping the Colorado Avalanche to a 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins in their home opener Wednesday night.

It was the second meeting between the two teams in three nights. The Avalanche beat the Bruins 4-0 in Boston on Monday night.

Colorado broke things open in the second period, with Nail Yakupov, Andrighetto and Matt Duchene all beating goaltender Tuukka Rask, who was replaced by Anton Khudobin for the third period.

Trailing 4-1 midway through the third, the Bruins made things interesting with goals from Tim Schaller and Torey Krug in a 1:27 span. Andrighetto and Tyson Jost responded with empty-net goals.

Semyon Varlamov stopped 20 shots to help the Avalanche start on the right foot at the Pepsi Center. The team went a dismal 13-26-2 at home a season ago when they finished with an NHL-worst 48 points (see full recap).