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At the Rink: Flyers at Flames

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Forward Sean Couturier will return to the Philadelphia Flyers lineup Thursday against the Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET; SN360, CSN-PH) after missing the past six games because of a concussion.

Couturier sustained the injury on a high hit from former teammate and Boston Bruins forward Zac Rinaldo on Oct. 21. Rinaldo was assessed a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct, but was not suspended.

"It's been tough," said Couturier, who will center a line with Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds. "There's nothing you can really control, especially with a concussion. You can't speed up the process of recovery. I had to wait and rest and recover. Now that I feel good, I feel that I can help the team get back on track."

Couturier said the effects of the hit subsided quickly.

"It was just a few days, headaches and pressure in my head," he said. "After that it was just slowly going away. I want to make sure I was 100 percent before coming back. I was kind of feeling good, but you don't want to risk anything with head injuries and you don't want to be out a month either. I just wanted to be safe and make sure I was 100 percent."

The Flyers (4-6-2) have lost four consecutive games in regulation and five in a row overall, including three straight on their current five-game road trip.

Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol expects Couturier's return to give the Flyers a jolt.

"I think it's a lift when you have a player come back in the lineup," Hakstol said. "[Couturier] is a guy we rely on and he's accountable in every part of the game. In a real quiet way he's a very good leader for us. In saying that, he's been off for a couple of weeks, so we also have to be careful in terms of how much we use him and in all of those situations. We're going to gauge that in the first 20 minutes of this game to see exactly just how much he can handle on night No. 1 back."

While Philadelphia is hoping Couturier's return can help spark the team, Calgary coach Bob Hartley is hoping a shuffle can do the same for the Flames (3-9-1).

Hartley grouped center Sean Monahan with Johnny Gaudreau and rookie Sam Bennett, and placed Jiri Hudler and Michael Frolik with center Mikael Backlund.

"I really like the way that Sam Bennett is skating right know," Hartley said. "We're going to give it a try. Sammy has played a little bit of right wing before. We're going to move up [Backlund] with Frolik and [Hudler]. I like that chemistry also. At the same time, we're scoring more goals, but we're trying to get a balance in our lines both offensively and defensively. We'll see where it takes us."

Calgary has allowed four or more goals in each game of a six-game stretch that has seen the Flames go 1-4-1. They've surrendered an NHL-high 56 goals against this season.

"We've got to play smarter and eliminate the turnovers and some sloppy plays," Monahan said. "We know we've got to be better and we know the things we have to do, it's just mentally we've got to do them. It's going to come down to positioning and at the end of the day it's just hard work."

Here are the projected lineups:


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

RJ Umberger - Brayden Schenn - Vincent Lecavalier

Chris VandeVelde - Scott Laughton - Ryan White

Michael Del Zotto - Mark Streit

Nick Schultz - Luke Schenn

Brandon Manning - Radko Gudas

Michal Neuvirth

Steve Mason

Injured: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (lower body), Evgeny Medvedev (upper body)

Scratched: Davis Drewiske, Sam Gagner


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Sam Bennett

Jiri Hudler - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik

Joe Colborne - Matt Stajan - David Jones

Brandon Bollig - Derek Grant - Josh Jooris

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman

Deryk Engelland - Dougie Hamilton

Karri Ramo

Joni Ortio

Injured: Lance Bouma (broken leg), Michael Ferland (lower body), Jonas Hiller (lower body)

Scratched: Mason Raymond, Ladislav Smid

Status update: Mason did not participate in the morning skate because of an illness, but is expected to back up Neuvirth. Gagner will be a healthy scratch with Couturier returning to the Flyers lineup. … Grant, a healthy scratch in Calgary's past two games, will replace Raymond in the lineup.

Who's hot: Neuvirth has 78 saves on 84 shots over his past two starts, both losses. … Bennett has two goals and six points as part of a four-game scoring streak. Frolik has three goals and four points in his past two games.

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