Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault could not offer much of an update on first-line center Sean Couturier on Wednesday afternoon following his early exit from Game 5.
In the second period of the Flyers’ 4-3 overtime win — which kept Philadelphia’s season alive — Couturier’s awkward collision with New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal prompted him to leave the game early, as he did not come out for the third period.
He did, however, know more about Barzal, who had to leave Game 5 early, too, after taking a stick near the eye from Claude Giroux in the third period.
“I don’t know more than I knew yesterday on Coots yesterday. He’s still being evaluated,” Vigneault said. “I have no concern about Barzal, I came up with the elevator with him last night… That could’ve been a real bad accident but fortunately, the young man is alright.”
If Couturier is unable to go on Thursday night for Game 6 (7 p.m. ET), there is a belief that Vigneault will shift Giroux from the wing to the first-line center spot, though he and his coaching staff are a ways from making that call for now.
“I think a lot goes into your lineup decisions and this time of the year, we’re not sharing or disclosing… the availabilities of players,” he said. “I think it’s easy to assume when people are watching the games and the physicality… players aren’t playing at 100%. So obviously tomorrow morning I’m going to get an in-depth analysis of where our players are physically and from there, talking with my coaching staff, we’ll make the best possible decision on who can give us the best game and what gives us the best lineup possible to beat such a strong opponent in the Islanders.”
Even with the potential loss of Couturier, Vigneault was quick to point out that his Flyers are starting to click — and at just the right time, too. With one more loss, they will be eliminated from playoff contention as the Islanders hold a 3-2 series lead.
“I would say that our last two games have been our best since we’ve been in the bubble,” Vigneault said. “What we need to do today is recover, make sure you get your rest and nutrition in, get a good night’s sleep, and then tomorrow morning we’ll have a skate.”
It’s an even more impressive feat that they’ve been able to do it against a well-organized Islanders side that has suddenly catapulted toward the status of serious Cup contender thanks to a staunch defense and new-found scoring abilities.
“There’s no doubt that this is a real challenging series. Us coaches have analyzed the Islanders, we’ve watched so many games post-bubble, all of their games in the bubble, there’s just no weaknesses there,” Vigneault said. “It’s a thorough lineup from Line 1 to Line 4. How many NHL teams have [Jean-Gabriel] Pageau and [Derick] Brassard on their third line?”
“It’s just a real solid team to their forward group, to their D group, to both their goaltenders. You have to play their best and I really like the way we’ve trended the last two games and that makes me optimistic that we can continue on that rise up.”