The Flyers are hoping some minor-league experience pays major dividends for two of their key young guns and the rest of the team when the curtain is raised on what will be a sprint-to-the-finish season.
As far as both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier are concerned, why not?
While the NHL lockout endlessly dragged on, forcing several players to skip across the Pond in order to play for teams throughout Europe, the rules were different for second year pros like Schenn, Couturier, Zac Rinaldo and Eric Wellwood. Even though they had played all or part of an NHL campaign, they were allowed to drop down to the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, and play on a regular basis.
That’s just one reason Peter Laviolette has stuck Schenn in departed Jaromir Jagr’s right wing spot on the top line, alongside Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell. And Couturier, primarily a checking specialist until his breakout hat trick in Game 2 against the Penguins, is being counted on to provide offense on the second line.
“I think I can bring more offensively,’’ said Couturier, who had 13 goals and 14 assists in 77 games last year, but 10 goals and 18 assists in 31 games for the Phantoms. “I know in Juniors I put up big numbers and in the AHL I had a decent year. If I can chip in a bit more it’ll help the team.’’
Schenn, coming off a 12-goal season in 54 games, seems brimming with confidence.
“I feel good, especially playing some games down in the minors,” said Schenn, who had 13 goals and 20 assists in 33 games for Adirondack. “For us guys who were down there and the guys playing in Europe, we probably have a little bit of a head start. Getting an opportunity to play with G [Giroux] and Hartsy [Hartnell] I’m looking forward to it. I’ll just try to blend in and find chemistry as quick as possible.’’
Laviolette thinks Schenn and Couturier are ready to carry more of the load.
“Just based on their evolvement as second year players, their role expands,’’ said Laviolette. “The fact they’ve been playing, that’s a positive. They played a lot of different situations down in the minor leagues.’’
The moment of truth starts Saturday when the circus gets underway for real.