- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2016

Sean Couturier, the Philadelphia Flyers‘ second-line center, will miss the remainder of the playoff series against the Washington Capitals after sustaining an apparent left shoulder injury in Game 1 of the teams’ first-round playoff series on Thursday night.

Alex Ovechkin checked Couturier into the glass directly in front of the scorekeeper’s bench at 11:13 of the second period, forcing Couturier from the game. The Flyers announced on Friday that Couturier would miss at least the next two weeks — effectively the rest of the playoff series — as he recovers from what they termed an upper-body injury.

“If he’s out, that’s a huge loss,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “He’s probably their best defensive forward on that team. Good faceoff guy. It’s a big loss and unfortunately, that’s what playoffs are. One day it’s him, next day it’s who knows. Got to play hard. Can’t worry about being hurt.”

Couturier scored had 11 goals and 28 assists over 63 games for the Flyers, missing six games in the first month of the season as he recovered from a concussion and 12 of 14 games from late January to late February after sustaining an unspecified lower-body injury.

He also played 1:55 a game on the power play and 1:51 on the penalty kill, on which he won 53.9 percent of his faceoffs — the second-best mark on the team.

On Thursday, he played 9:04 over 12 shifts, with 2:47 of that on the power play, and had one shot on goal, another attempt blocked and won two of five faceoffs.

“I think he’s been great for them this year,” defenseman John Carlson said. “He’s a great faceoff guy. He [kills penalties] awesome. Just a good talent. You never want to see somebody get hurt at the end of the day, but that’s just the way the playoffs go. It’s physical, it’s hard-hitting. You can see it happening on both sides.”

Couturier’s absence clearly had an effect on Washington, which was able to capitalize upon the Flyers‘ need to adjust without him. Philadelphia, forced to jumble its top two lines, had the 32-30 edge in shot attempts when Ovechkin hit Couturier, but the Capitals then took 29 more attempts — and scored both of their goals — over the remainder of the game.

“You lose guys like that … it makes it really tough on a team because you have those guys that play against top lines all the time and all of a sudden, now your top line has to play against the other teams’ top lines and you don’t really want that,” Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “You want to be able to get mismatches and you want to be able to get your top line against their threes and fours. It makes it tough. It makes it hard on them because he’s a really good player — a really good player.”

The Flyers worked both Brayden Schenn, who began the game as the right wing on Couturier’s line, and third-line right wing Sam Gagner in that center role after the hit. Couturier’s absence should mean additional minutes for Scott Laughton, who played in 71 games this season and had seven goals and 41 assists but was a healthy scratch on Thursday.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after practice on Friday that he couldn’t make a correlation between the Flyers‘ loss of Couturier and his team’s victory, but did say that he didn’t figure it would change Washington’s approach for Game 2 on Saturday.

“I think Couturier’s an important part of what they do … [but] they’re going to have someone else step up and fill a role and we expect them to come with a real good effort,” Trotz said. “I don’t think it’ll affect us a whole lot. We went in with a plan and we’re going to stay with the plan, [a] stick-to-the-script sort of thing, and we’ll see what they have tomorrow.”

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