Friday, October 24, 2014
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Couturier's next challenge: Stamkos (52 goals)

The Flyers will try to continue their impressive run - and contain the league’s top goal scorer - when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.

Couturier's next challenge: Stamkos (52 goals)

The Flyers will try to continue their impressive run - and contain the league’s top goal scorer - when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.

Flyers center Sean Couturier and linemates Max Talbot and Jakub Voracek will have a difficult challenge when matched against the high-scoring Steven Stamkos unit.

Stamkos leads the NHL with 52 goals and is third in points with 87 - one more point than the Flyers’ Claude Giroux.  With his next goal, Stamkos will set a single-season franchise record; he shares the mark originally set by Vinny Lecavalier in 2006-07.

Lately, Couturier’s recently formed shutdown line has fared well against some of the league’s top players, including units led by Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.

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“It’s just another challenge that you throw to Sean, and he’s answered the bell,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said after Sunday’s practice in Voorhees. “He’s done a real nice job with it, along with his linemates and the defensive pair that’s been out there with them - that’s a couple of big bodies out there. It’s been tight against the other team’s top line.”

Nick Grossmann (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and Braydon Coburn (6-5, 220) have been the shutdown defensemen.

Couturier, who has been facing opponents’ top lines for the last two weeks, enjoys the challenge that Stamkos and linemates Marty St. Louis and Teddy Purcell will bring to the Wells Fargo Center.

“They’re going to be tough to play against. They’re fast and have a lot of speed and skill, so we’ll have to be ready.” Couturier said. “I try to take pride in what I do and shut them down. And if we can get some offense created, it’s good. Even if we’re playing sort of a defensive role, if we’re getting our chances offensively, it’s all good.”

In three games against the Flyers this season, the quick-shooting Stamkos has totaled two goals.

“He’s the NHL’s leading goal scorer, so we obviously have to have an eye on him,” Talbot said. “He’s a guy who can definitely shoot the puck. He’s a powerful kid and he knows where to put himself to get it off. It’s always a big challenge and it’s something that’s fun for us.”

“He’s a great player…. but we played against Malkin’s line and Ovechkin’s line and I thought we did a pretty good job,” Voracek said. “Just play responsible defensively and spend the most time in their zone, which I think is the best defense.”

The Flyers have won seven of their last eight home games. Overall, they are 10-2-1 in March.

Bryz’s feat

With Saturday’s 4-1 win over Montreal, Ilya Bryzgalov became the first Flyers goalie since Bernie Parent in 1974-75 to allow two goals or fewer in 11 straight games.

Bryzgalov, who has started 18 of the last 19 games, was given Sunday off.

Breakaways

The Flyers are 1-2 against the lowly Lightning, losing a 2-1 overtime decision in which they managed just 15 shots against Tampa’s 1-3-1 trap on Nov. 9; winning a 5-2 decision on Dec. 10 in which Giroux suffered a concussion; and losing, 5-1, in Tampa on Dec. 27….Couturier, Talbot and Coburn keyed a five-on-three penalty kill for 1:21 during the third period of Saturday’s 4-1 win over Montreal. The Flyers had a 3-1 lead at the time. “We worked on it actually that morning,” Talbot said. “We changed a little bit, going with two forwards and one D, and Bryz made a couple of big saves and it could have been a game-changer.” …Giroux on injured teammate Chris Pronger attending Saturday’s  game: “We hadn’t seen him in a while, and obviously it was great to see the big man again.”

Contact Sam Carchidi @scarchidi@phillynews.com or on Twitter@BroadStBull.

Sam Carchidi Inquirer Staff Writer
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Sam Carchidi Inquirer Staff Writer
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