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Flyers’ Sean Couturier in Limbo; How Lineup May Look Without Center



Sean Couturier. Philadelphia Flyers (AP photo)

Danny Briere, now a Philadelphia Flyers front-office executive, and top-line center Sean Couturier are close friends. When Briere was playing for the Flyers, he took Couturier into his Haddonfield home and they lived together for a while. Their bond grew stronger.

So Briere was surprised when reports came out Monday that Couturier had a setback and that he would be sidelined for a while.

Earlier in the day, Briere said, Couturier had downplayed issues with his surgically repaired back.

“Honestly, I just talked to him Monday morning. He’s been so gung-ho about feeling great and training harder this summer and being ready to go,” Briere said on Tuesday morning. “And (Monday) morning he said, ‘I’ve got a little tightness today, but a couple more days and I’ll be fine.’ ”

Later in the day, the Flyers released a statement, saying Couturier was week to week with an upper-body injury. Reports began surfacing that Couturier had re-injured his back and was going to be sidelined for a while.

Thought it Was Hoax

“When I saw everything happening yesterday and heard all the reports, I first thought it was a hoax,” Briere said. “I don’t know what happened or where he’s at.  I assume that what came out is true because everybody is reporting it. I don’t know if he went for tests after (they talked) and something happened. I’m not too sure.”

Briere said if it’s a long-term issue, the management team will discuss how to fill the spot. Trade opportunities (Pierre-Luc Dubois, who played for John Tortorella in Columbus?) will be among the topics. Couturier has a $7.75 million cap hit, so the Flyers will get lots of cap relief if he is placed on the LTIR list. Defenseman Ryan Ellis (pelvic injury) is also expected to go on LTIR in the near future.

If Couturier’s setback only keeps him out a few weeks, the Flyers will survive, Briere said.

“We’re still three or four weeks from the start of the season, so that would give him a little bit of time before we would have to make a decision,” said Briere, a special assistant to general manager Chuck Fletcher.

Without Couturier, the Flyers — who start training camp Thursday under new coach Tortorella — would obviously be considerably weaker down the middle. The center spots might look like this:

Center(s) of Attention

1C; Kevin Hayes, who played well late in the season after missing significant time because of injuries.

2C: Scott Laughton, who had been penciled in as the second-line left winger. He wasn’t himself late last season as he returned from a concussion, but is now healthy.

3C: Morgan Frost, a one-time first-round draft pick who was inconsistent last season (5 goals, 16 points in 55 games) but is getting a chance to show he belongs in the NHL.

4C: Patrick Brown, Tanner Laczynski, or Artem Anisimov. Brown is a good faceoff man, Laczynski has promise but is coming off surgery on both hips, and Anisimov played in Russia’s KHL last season. The latter center had three solid seasons for Tortorella when they were with the Rangers.

“We want to see what Frost and Laczynski have,” Briere said. “Frost was really good at the finish last season, and for skill guys, sometimes a year makes a big difference. Coming in this year, hopefully he’s feeling more confident — and maybe a little bigger, a little stronger. And the same with Tanner Laczynski. If he can stay healthy, he’s a big strong guy who can certainly take some minutes at the bottom of the lineup. We’re pretty confident with him as well.”

Briere, whose team is hopeful left winger Joel Farabee (neck surgery) can play early in the season, tried to stay positive.

“There’s still optimism,” he said, “as long as Coots isn’t out for the year.  Hopefully, it’s something that’s short. Farabee should be short. If these guys miss a week or two at the beginning of the season, we should be fine. You look at our lineup, I really thought that with that mentality Torts is going to bring, that if we had a healthy team, we could surprise people. I’m not saying we’d win the Stanley Cup this year, but we would definitely take a step in the right direction.

“Now it’s a little frustrating with what’s happening with the injury.”

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