The Philadelphia Flyers are quickly losing ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks marked their fifth straight game without a win (0-3-2). That’s a dramatic reversal of fortune, following seven games without a regulation loss (5-0-2).
Philadelphia heads into the new week with 33 points — tied in the standings with the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils and five points out of the second wild-card spot. Recent multi-goal losses to Los Angeles, Anaheim and Pittsburgh have also dropped the Flyers’ goal differential for the year to minus-29. That’s second-worst in the Eastern Conference, only ahead of Montreal (minus-50).
Carrying On Without Couturier
It’s no surprise that the Flyers’ struggles have multiplied with Sean Couturier on the injured list. He has missed the last six games, dealing with multiple issues.
“He’s a guy that that adds so much to our lineup,” said interim head coach Mike Yeo after Monday’s practice. “You talk about faceoffs on both the power play and the penalty kill. His role, as far as playing against top players. His ability to hang on to the puck, to play with the puck, to make plays. He’s a guy that we miss right now. So, anxious to get him back and get him healthy. That’s for sure.”
The 2020 Selke Trophy winner, Couturier has averaged 20:23 of ice time in 29 games so far this year. With 17 points, his offensive production is lagging behind last season, when he had 41 points in 45 games. Some of that comes from an unusually low shooting percentage of 7.9%, which has yielded just seven goals. Last season, he connected for 18 goals, at a career-high rate of 15%.
Couturier is expected to miss at least one more week of action.
“There’s been some days where he’s been starting to feel good, and then there’s been other days where it hasn’t been so good,” Yeo said. “So as of right now, he’s still out. Hopefully, by the end of this week, he starts to come around and starts to feel better and get closer to coming back.”
Sanheim Returns, Braun Into Covid Protocol
The Flyers took one step forward and one step back on their blue line on Monday.
Travis Sanheim returned to practice after missing the last two games while in Covid protocol. He’s expected to suit up for Tuesday’s home game against the Carolina Hurricanes. But fellow defenseman Justin Braun missed practice and has now gone onto the Covid protocol list.
Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are also close to returning from their time on the Covid protocol list. With test results set to come in after Monday’s practice, Yeo said “there’s a chance we may see one or a couple players” back in the lineup to face the Hurricanes.
York’s Poise, Yandle’s Streak
Every injury creates an opportunity for another player to show what he can do. With big holes on the blue line, rookie Cam York has taken full advantage.
Since being added to the main roster last week, York has averaged 22:13 of ice time over three games. Against the Sharks on Saturday, he was Philadelphia’s overall ice-time leader, logging 23:59. That included 2:19 on the power play, and a point shot that James van Riemsdyk converted for his second goal of the game — and York’s first career NHL point.
JVR's second tally of the night…
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) January 9, 2022
At 20 years old, York looks like he’s well on his way to becoming a regular on the Flyers’ main roster.
Once the blue line gets healthy again, though, he may have to bide his time a little longer. Now just eight games away from becoming the NHL’s all-time consecutive-games played leader, fellow left-side defender Keith Yandle isn’t coming out of the lineup any time soon.
“It’s arguably one of the most impressive streaks in hockey,” said Kevin Hayes, who also played with Yandle on the New York Rangers before the pair reunited in Philadelphia.
“Everyone wants to score goals and everyone wants to get a ton of points. But to play 900-and-something straight games, with bumps and bruises I know I go through and I know that my teammates go through.
“Just knowing that you have to get out there for your teammates — whether it’s a broken foot or broken hand or MCL stuff, he’s out there and he’s giving it his all. I mean, it’s been an honor, honestly, to be his friend and his teammate. He’s never the one to talk about this streak. He never does it, so it’s always us bringing it up.”
Barring any further game postponements, Yandle’s record-breaking game should come in two weeks’ time, against the Dallas Stars at Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 24.
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