Top-line center Sean Couturier said there was a chance he would play Friday night in the Flyers’ win-or-go-home Game 5 in Pittsburgh. But the odds don’t seem great because Couturier was unable to practice Thursday in Voorhees.
“To save energy, I guess,” Couturier said when asked why he didn’t participate in practice.
Couturier appeared to injure his right knee in a violent, open-ice collision with teammate Radko Gudas during practice Tuesday, causing him to miss Wednesday’s 5-0 loss to the Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center. Pittsburgh has a three-games-to-one lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal and has outscored the Flyers, 17-1, in its three wins.
“It’s day-to-day; I’m feeling better every day,” Couturier said during a news conference at the Skate Zone in Voorhees.
Couturier, named Wednesday as one of three finalists for the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward), said he skated Wednesday and Thursday. He made the trip to Pittsburgh.
“I’m not going to say how close I am or how far I am,” said Couturier, who had a career-high 31 goals in the regular season. “It’s really on me seeing how I feel every day, and hopefully, it keeps getting better.”
Couturier called the collision a fluke.
“We’ve done this drill all year. It was a bad timing,” he said. “There’s no one really to blame. It’s just a fluke accident. I should have maybe had my head up there. … He never saw me. I never really saw him. I saw him at the last second.”
Added Couturier: “It’s frustrating. I’m not going to lie. You want to be out there battling with your teammates, especially at this time of year.”
Two years ago, Couturier took a hit from Washington’s Alex Ovechkin in Game 1 of the playoffs, injured his left shoulder, and missed the rest of that six-game series.
Even though the Penguins have embarrassed the Flyers in three of the four games, Couturier said, “I feel we’re so close sometimes to just being in the game or taking over the game. It’s frustrating at times. We’ve got to find something to get the momentum to our side and get going.”
Couturier (76 points, plus-34), who has been getting daily treatments since the collision, was nominated for the Selke along with Boston’s Patrice Bergeron (63 points, plus-21) and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar (92 points, plus-21).
“It’s a great honor. It means a lot just to be a finalist, especially with the two other nominees,” Couturier said. “I kind of model my game about the way they play the game. I think they play it the way it should be played, and I try to play the same game. Just to be nominated with Kopitar and Bergeron, it’s already a great honor, for sure.”
Based on practice, rookie defenseman Robert Hagg will return to the lineup and replace Travis Sanheim. He will be paired with Shayne Gostisbehere.
Gostisbehere, who is minus-seven in the series, will drop from the first pairing, which will reunite Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald.
Including the regular season, Hagg has been a healthy scratch in the last 12 games. Despite being benched in the final eight games of the regular season, he finished tied for seventh in the NHL with 238 hits. The Flyers can use his physical presence, especially against Sidney Crosby.
“Hopefully I can bring something to the team, some energy,” Hagg said. “I can’t wait to go in and show what I can bring to the team – and if it’s something good, I guess people will talk about it.”
This is the third playoff series in Stanley Cup history in which each of the first four games was decided by at least four goals, according to the NHL. The others: Montreal-Chicago in 1946, and Detroit-San Jose in 1995.
Pittsburgh right winger Patric Hornqvist, who had 29 regular-season goals, including 15 on the power play, will miss his second straight game with an unspecified injury. … Penguins goalie Matt Murray was examined by a trainer after being injured in practice, but he returned to drills a short time later and appeared fine. … The Flyers do not have a “plus” player in the series.