Flyers analysis

Tortorella on Couturier: ‘I need him to be better, that's all'

The Flyers' captain had an interesting spot at practice Monday ahead of Tuesday's game vs. Toronto

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The Flyers have lost three of their last four games, a stretch in which they've been outscored by 11 goals (21-10).

In 13:48 minutes per game, Sean Couturier has an assist, has won 26 of his 40 faceoffs (65 percent) and has just a minus-1 rating. The games are getting bigger, the club has struggled to keep the puck out of its net and Couturier's game appears to be trending in a better direction compared to two weeks ago.

Has he earned some more ice time?

"No, I think there are a number of players, him being one, that need to be better," John Tortorella said Monday.

Couturier played a season-low 11:10 minutes last Saturday in the Flyers' 6-5 loss to the Bruins. The 31-year-old captain has played under 13 minutes four times over the past 14 games. Over his previous six seasons, he had never played under 13 minutes in a full game.

The Flyers had 15 forwards at practice Monday and ran the following line combinations, in no particular order:

Owen Tippett-Morgan Frost-Travis Konecny
Joel Farabee-Scott Laughton-Bobby Brink
Tyson Foerster-Ryan Poehling-Garnet Hathaway
Denis Gurianov-Sean Couturier-Cam Atkinson
Nicolas Deslauriers-Noah Cates-Olle Lycksell

Lycksell, called up Monday from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, was on one of the power play units at practice. It was a sign that he could enter the lineup alongside Cates and Deslauriers.

Couturier, Atkinson and Gurianov did not see any work on the power play in practice. Gurianov was a healthy scratch last Saturday and had played on the power play in his first three games with the Flyers. Atkinson, a healthy scratch two of the last three games, is typically featured on a power play when he's in the lineup.

At home Tuesday against the Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP), the Flyers will have to sit three forwards. Could Couturier be a healthy scratch with Atkinson and Gurianov? We'll see.

"I'm not sure what the lineup's going to be," Tortorella said.

Update: Couturier frustrated by benching, how things have been handled lately

After missing almost 22 months because of two back surgeries, Couturier opened the season healthy and as the Flyers' first-line center. He looked like his all-situation self and stayed in that role until around mid-February.

"I think I'm looking for myself a little bit," Couturier said last week. "I'm not playing as much as I used to, so it's different. But I'm just trying to stay positive and do what I can to help the team down the stretch here."

Tortorella said "a number of guys need to play better," including Couturier and Atkinson.

"The people that I have slotted and given more minutes as we've gone through here I think deserve it," the Flyers' head coach said. "You've got to play better. I don't care if it's 10 minutes, I don't care if it's 17, 18 minutes, I don't care if it's seven minutes, you've got to give me something to hang my hat on to keep on trying to earn more ice time. I'm coaching 20 guys; not just one or two or three. It's all of them and those are the decisions I have to make."

Tortorella isn't concerned about Couturier's mindset.

"I'll never worry about him as far as effort, as far as attitude," Tortorella said. "He is a pro. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I'm not worried about that. I need him to be better, that's all."

Couturier believes recently he has been better.

"The last couple of games, I thought I've been better," he said Monday. "Obviously the team success hasn't, so it's tough right now. I'm just going to keep trying to work on my game, find myself and find a role.

"If you would asked me this a couple of weeks ago when I would mess up defensively and was costing games to the team, I probably would say I deserve it, to be demoted. I feel the last couple of games, the limited opportunities I'm getting, the ice time, I think I'm playing all right. Obviously not great, but I'm just trying to do the most of what I can right now and just be a good teammate. Hopefully other guys step up and I can kind of step up here eventually."

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