Flyers analysis

Desperate for win, Tortorella turns to vets and Flyers get a reinforcement

The Flyers enter Monday night holding the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot

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VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers need a win.


If John Tortorella's rebuilding club is going to follow through on its surprise playoff push, a positive result Monday night is almost necessary. The Flyers host the Islanders (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP), a team that is five points back of them and has played two fewer games.

After Monday, the Flyers go three days before their next game and 11 before their next home game. They've dropped four straight (0-3-1), 14 of their last 21 (7-10-4) and lost their grip of third place last Saturday night for the first time since Jan. 24. They currently hold the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot by two points over the Red Wings.

With seven games left, Tortorella looks like he's ready to lean on some experience. Or at least to start this week.

At morning skate, Sean Couturier centered Travis Konecny and Tyson Foerster on the top line and Cam Atkinson was back in the lineup along with Nicolas Deslauriers. Couturier and Atkinson were also on the Flyers' second power play unit.

Here were the Flyers' line combinations Monday morning:

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

Couturier had played fourth-line minutes (11:33 per game) over the last five games after being benched for two games. His role started to shrink in mid-February and he had played just 17 seconds per game on the power play over the Flyers' last 10 games.

So this is a significant promotion for the captain at a time when the Flyers could really use a stabilizing performance. Among all Flyers forwards, Couturier has the most regular-season games (790) and playoff games (39) of experience.

"I'm looking to try to make a difference in any way I can," he said. "Tonight I'm getting an opportunity with two of the hottest sticks on the team. It should be fun. Excited, definitely looking forward to it."

The Flyers hope they're able to better allocate minutes on defense with the return of Jamie Drysdale. The 21-year-old is one of their top puck movers and will quarterback the first power play unit. He'll be paired with Nick Seeler, who just returned last Saturday night after missing 11 games with an injury to the area of his left ankle and foot.

For Drysdale, it'll be his first game in five weeks. He was recovering from an injury to the area of his left shoulder and arm. This wasn't nearly as severe as last season, when Drysdale played only 10 games for the Ducks because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

"I think ultimately that was kind of the main thing that was going through my head, was just, 'S---, not again,'" he said. "But that was a four-to-six month recovery. Now, I think it was around four weeks. It's real good to be back and not have to deal with that."

Here were the Flyers' defensive pairs and power play units Monday morning:

Cam York-Travis Sanheim
Nick Seeler-Jamie Drysdale
Egor Zamula-Erik Johnson

First unit

Jamie Drysdale, Travis Konecny, Morgan Frost, Tyson Foerster, Owen Tippett

Second unit

Egor Zamula, Joel Farabee, Cam Atkinson, Scott Laughton, Sean Couturier

The Flyers didn't practice Sunday. Tortorella has often looked for days off in an attempt to keep his team as rested as possible down the stretch.

"Sometimes it's not the physical rest, it's the mental rest, to get away from it," the Flyers' head coach said. "That's what we tried to do yesterday. Not to divulge any information, but we had a meeting this morning regarding that type of situation, how we can be as fresh as we can be as we go through the next couple of weeks here. I want input from them, so it's kind of a collaboration."

Travis Sanheim and Cam York, the club's top defensive pair, have played a ton of minutes. With tonight's start, rookie goaltender Samuel Ersson will have appeared in 27 of the Flyers' last 32 games.

"All teams are tired this time of year," Tortorella said. "Especially a couple of our defensemen and Ers has played a ton in a situation that wasn't scheduled for him. Those are the few guys that we're really concerned about, so we're talking about it, that's for sure.

"But, sometimes there has to be, 'We've just got to get through it.' Really good time to see and evaluate how guys do this. This is why I'm glad we're here. We're getting a chance to see this stuff happen; anxious to see how we get through it."

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