The Flyers have some early adversity on their plate.
Their do-it-all first-line center Sean Couturier will be out a minimum of two weeks with a costochondral separation, which is when one of the ribs comes apart from the sternum.
Starting from Saturday, the Flyers play seven games over the next two weeks. The Flyers will have to hope the 2019-20 Frank J. Selke Trophy winner needs only the two weeks for recovery. The Flyers are off to a 2-0-0 start in their shortened 56-game regular season, which has them in arguably the most competitive realigned division.
Couturier suffered the injury in the Flyers’ 5-2 win Friday night over the Penguins. The 28-year-old was forced to leave the game and did not return after taking a hit from Jared McCann 1:38 into the action.
A two-week timeframe goes up to Jan. 30. The Flyers play the Islanders on Jan. 31 and then the Bruins Feb. 3.
Over the past two seasons, Couturier has won the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the club’s most valuable player. He does everything for the Flyers, from playing big minutes at even strength against the opposition’s best lines, as well as on the club’s top units for both the power play and penalty kill.
Last season, Couturier ranked first on the Flyers in even strength points (46), faceoff win percentage (59.6 percent) and plus-minus (plus-21), second in points (59) and shots (185), tied for second in assists (37), third in goals (22) and shorthanded time on ice (140:29), fourth in time on ice per game (19:50) and tied for fifth in power play points (13).
Couturier not being able to return to Friday night’s game tells you a good bit about the pain of the injury. He’s not easily knocked out of or kept out of games. In the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Couturier put up six points (four goals, two assists) over Games 5 and 6 playing on a torn MCL. Last season, as the Flyers tried to monitor his shoulder strain, he somewhat sneakily still took some faceoffs. Couturier also played Game 7 of their second-round exit to the Islanders with an MCL sprain. He possesses a quiet, inner type of toughness.
“He’s an elite player and you realize how good he is when you see him at the rink every day and you see how he goes about his life,” Kevin Hayes said last July.
Couturier’s injury opens the door for talented 21-year-old center prospect Morgan Frost and will force the Flyers into adjustments down the middle.
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