Improving Sean Couturier 'still hoping' to play in Flyers' must-win Game 5

FLYREARLY21
Flyers center Sean Couturier talks with Jim McCrossin, the Flyers’ director of sports medicine during a morning skate Friday in Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH — Sean Couturier, the Flyers’ top-line center, took part in the morning skate Friday, whipped assistant coach Ian Laperriere in faceoffs, and said he had made progress since Thursday.

Will he be able to play Friday night in Game 5 at the PPG Paints Arena?

“I’m still hoping,” said Couturier, who had missed Game 4 because of an apparent right-knee injury. “I guess I’ll take warm-ups and see how that goes.”

He did more skating Friday than in his previous two days.

“It was a good day,” Couturier said.

It will be a game-time decision as to whether Couturier, 25, plays Friday against the Penguins, who are trying to end the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal. Pittsburgh has a three-games-to-one lead and has outscored the Flyers, 17-1, in its wins.

Based on what Couturier said, how he looked, and the fact it’s a potential elimination game for the Flyers, I’d say there’s a 60-40 chance he’ll play Friday. He set career highs in goals (31), assists (45) and points (76) this season, finishing with a plus-34 rating and becoming a Selke Trophy finalist as the league’s best defensive forward.

Without him, the Flyers dropped Game 4 to the relentless Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center, 5-0. They were 1-2 with him in the lineup: a Couturier-led 5-1 win sandwiched around 7-0 and 5-1 losses. Couturier had a goal and two assists in the Flyers’ lone victory.

Couturier said he has a “big part in the decision” on whether he plays, along with the Flyers’ coaching staff and medical team.

“It’s one thing to play, but you have to be able to help the team as well,” he said.

Couturier smiled when asked about testing his leg in faceoffs against Laperriere.

“I was trying to get a test, but Lappy wasn’t so good on faceoffs to really test it out,” he said, drawing laughs.

Based on Thursday’s practice, Val Filppula will center wingers Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek on the top line if Couturier can’t play.

“I want to be out there with my teammates,” said Couturier, who plays in all situations.

He later said he needed to feel “good enough to help the team. It’s easy to say I could play, but if you’re not helping the team, it’s not good. I’ll see how I feel in warm-ups, see if I feel good enough to help the team.”

Added Couturier: “It’s tough at this time of year to be sitting out games. You want to be out there battling. You work hard all season to get to this point, and not being able to help your teammates is frustrating, so I’m going to try to do all I can to be back out there and help the team.”

Breakaways

It appears Brian Elliott will start in goal for the Flyers, though coach Dave Hakstol refused to confirm it. … Giroux and Wayne Simmonds are goal-less in their last 11 playoff games. … The Flyers have been down in a seven-game series by a 3-1 margin 17 times in franchise history, going 1-16 in those series. Their ‘ only series win in that predicament came against Boston in 2010, when they overcame a three-games-to-none deficit.