GLENDALE, Ariz. - Center Sean Couturier, regarded as one of the NHL's best defensive players in the last couple of years, is gradually turning into the scorer the Flyers expected when they selected him eighth overall in the 2011 draft.
He's not scoring at the same prolific rate as he did in juniors, but he is making progress.
Now in his fourth season, Couturier had nine goals and 18 points entering Monday, and was on a 21-goal pace - which would be eight more goals than his career best. He had five goals and 10 points in his last 12 games.
Couturier, 22, said he is taking more "calculated risks" on offense than in the past.
"I'm trying to carry the puck a little more and create some space and plays," he said before the game. ". . . In past years, maybe I haven't done it as much, but it comes with the learning process, and getting stronger."
Coach Craig Berube said he is happy with the strides the 6-foot-3, 197-pound Couturier has made but wants him to be more consistent.
"There are still games where he plays too safe," Berube said. "I want him on his toes more and to be more aggressive [offensively] and not give up the defensive responsibilities."
Berube thinks Couturier can produce at least 20 goals and 60 points down the road.
"But he has to have more of an attack mentality," Berube said. "He has to want to shoot the puck more. He doesn't shoot the puck enough. Again, be more aggressive up ice.
"He's coming around."
With Steve Mason healthy and able to start Monday, goalie Rob Zepp was sent back to the Phantoms. He posted a 4-3 overtime win over Winnipeg last week in his first and only NHL appearance.
Zepp, 33, became the oldest player to win his NHL debut since 1926.
"He won a big game, a real big game," Berube said. "I go back to that save he made at the end of the second period - it gave us life going into the third period, and we went out and played with an attitude."
Berube said Zepp's style, quickness, and structure in his game "give me confidence" if he has to be recalled in the future.