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Couturier skates, could return to Flyers' lineup

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier, sidelined the past two games with a stomach virus, skated with his team for a second straight day Friday at Prudential Center and is expected to return to the lineup against the New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET).

Couturier, who missed the opening two games of Philadelphia's current six-game road trip against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, has two goals and five points in 12 games. He had 13 goals and 27 points in 77 games for the Flyers as a rookie last season.

While Flyers coach Peter Laviolette wouldn't tip his hand on whether or not Couturier would be in the lineup, he did admit that the second-year forward looked good in practice.

Couturier centered Maxime Talbot and Zac Rinaldo on the fourth line at Friday's morning skate, and likely would start the game there if he is penciled in against the Devils.

"I've only practiced [Thursday and Friday], so the first couple of shifts will be important for me to get my jump again, and we'll see from there," Couturier said. "I feel good."

Flyers captain Claude Giroux said he feels having Couturier back in the lineup will be a huge bonus.

"Sean is one of the top penalty-killers and he's logging a lot of minutes," Giroux said. "He's a good player for us."

Another injured Flyers player, Scott Hartnell, who has been sidelined the past 11 games after fracturing his big toe Jan. 22, is scheduled to visit a foot doctor Friday and hopes to resume skating soon. According to reports, he could be back on the ice as early as next Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

"He's a big part of our locker room … a guy who provides continuity on and off the ice," Laviolette said. "He was our leading goal-scorer last year and we miss him in a lot of different aspects. I think anytime you remove pieces from your lineup, it becomes more challenging. Certainly, we've had to deal with that this year."

If Couturier does play against the Devils, here's what the line combinations might look like for the Flyers on Friday:

Matt Read - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds

Jakub Voracek - Brayden Schenn - Tye McGinn

Ruslan Fedotenko - Danny Briere - Mike Knuble

Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen - Luke Schenn

Nicklas Grossmann - Kurtis Foster

Braydon Coburn - Bruno Gervais

Ilya Bryzgalov

Brian Boucher

Scratched: Tom Sestito, Andreas Lilja

Injured: Scott Hartnell, Andrej Meszaros, Michael Leighton, Jody Shelley

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

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