Sean Couturier is out, so putting Claude Giroux at center is Flyers' best option | Sam Carchidi

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Sean Couturier dives for the puck as Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang get off a shot in the Flyers’ 5-1 win in Game 2. Couturier’s status for Game 4 is unknown.

Sean Couturier, the Flyers’ top-line center, won’t play Wednesday in Game 4 against visiting Pittsburgh.

General manager Ron Hextall made the announcement about 45 minutes before the game.

Earlier Wednesday, the Flyers talked about teammates’ having to step up their games if Couturier can’t play, and captain Claude Giroux mentioned how Ville Leino stepped in and starred in the 2010 playoffs after injuries put him into the lineup.

“It’s not about any one player here,” coach Dave Hakstol said after the morning skate. “You go through playoffs, you go through a season, [and] injuries are a part of it. We deal with them all the time, so we’ll make good decisions tonight at game time, and we’ll be ready and prepared regardless of what the lineup is.”

Hakstol declined to speculate on what the lineup would look like without Couturier, who was injured in a violent collision with Radko Gudas at practice Tuesday.

But I will.

Hakstol could slide rookie center Nolan Patrick to the top line and keep Giroux at left wing. The problem with that scenario is that Val Filppula would be the second-line center – and that would create potential problems when matched against Evgeni Malkin’s line.

The Flyers are better off with Patrick (not Filppula) against Malkin.

From here, the better option would be to move Giroux back to center and keep Patrick on the second line and Filppula on the third unit.

My suggestions:

  • Giroux centering Michael Raffl and Jake Voracek.
  • Patrick centering Travis Konecny and Wayne Simmonds.
  • Filppula centering Oskar Lindblom and Jordan Weal.
  • Scott Laughton, who has been playing left wing lately, centering Jori Lehtera and Matt Read.

No matter which lines Hakstol uses, the Flyers have a gargantuan task trying to contain Sidney Crosby (38 goals and 93 points in 63 regular-season games vs. the Flyers) and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

And they need their offense to awaken. Giroux and Simmonds have gone goal-less in their last 10 playoff games.

Even with Couturier in the lineup, the Flyers have been outscored by the Penguins in their seven meetings this season, 33-17. They have been outscored by 13-6 in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh will be weakened on its top line and power play because Patric Hornqvist is injured, so the team that shows the better depth will have the advantage.

For the Flyers, it’s a virtual must-win game.

“It’s the biggest game of the series to this point,” Hakstol said. “Let’s be real clear about that.”

[ Dave Hakstol is only starting to show the short-term thinking the Flyers need in the playoffs | Mike Sielski ]

A loss would put the Flyers in a three-games-to-one hole. In their franchise’s playoff history, they have won just one of 17 series when facing that kind of deficit.

A win would even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at two victories apiece, and the Flyers are 14-8 when a series is deadlocked after four games.

“I think it speaks for itself that it’s the most important game of the year,” Konecny said. “We have to find a way to win. We’re all excited to go at the opportunity.”

Breakaways

Hakstol hopes Weal can energize the lineup with his slashing ability to the net. “We haven’t generated a lot down low, and he’s a guy who can bring some of those abilities,” he said. … Giroux was asked if Weal could be the Flyers’ “Leino” this year. “Hopefully,” he said, smiling. … There is a chance Michal Neuvirth will be Brian Elliott’s backup Wednesday. … Giroux on Couturier: “He ‘s been playing a lot of minutes for us. He plays in every situation. He brings a lot to this team.”.. Gudas declined taking any questions about his collision with Couturier.