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Wednesday Night Hockey

Couturier not concerned with individual accolades with Flyers

Center's desire to win, work ethic on, off ice inspires teammates

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Sean Couturier came off the ice after a recent Philadelphia Flyers practice to an empty locker room.

Most of his teammates had showered, dressed and gone about their day by the time he started unlacing his skates. But Couturier, the Flyers' No. 1 center who is tied for the team lead with 39 points (13 goals, 26 assists) in 46 games, spent an extra 30 minutes after practice working with skills coach Angelo Ricci.

"It's a bunch of little areas," Couturier said. "Shootouts we're working on, trying to work in tight and getting some good shots and kind of get a feel of what are the best options. Today that's what I was working on. It's always little things that, you know, in the past few games you feel that you could have maybe done better or you've got to execute more and it's just putting it into practice."

It's that kind of work ethic that has turned Couturier into a leader on the ice and a role model off of it.

"When you think of an elite player, you start thinking if he wasn't in the lineup how would your team look," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "He plays in so many situations. He's huge for us offensively, he's always been huge for us defensively. The last three years his game has really become elite. He brings it every night."

The Flyers visit the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS), 10 days before the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game is played in the same building.

Couturier won't be in St. Louis then, even though he has the same number of points as teammate Travis Konecny, who will represent the Flyers on the Metropolitan Division team, and eight more points than Giroux (31), who was the Flyers candidate for the All-Star Last Men In fan vote.

Video: WSH@PHI: Konecny buries wrist shot at the doorstep

In his nine NHL seasons, Couturier has never played in an All-Star Game. He's received top-five votes for a major postseason NHL award once, finishing second for the Selke Trophy in 2017-18, given to the top defensive forward. However, Couturier is regarded as one of the best two-way players in the NHL.

"Because he might not be as flashy or look as spectacular as some of the other guys, people don't notice him as much," Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. "But I can tell you the people in this room, the people that play with him every day, they notice him."

Couturier is as important to the Flyers as Patrice Bergeron is to the Boston Bruins or Ryan O'Reilly is to the Blues. Although those two are highly regarded on a national level as two-way, team-leading centers, Couturier flies under the radar. Not that he's concerned by it.

"Do I care? Not really," he said. "As long as we win games. Just being named with those guys, being mentioned with Bergeron, he's probably the most complete player in the past decade to play this League, so I must be doing something good. I've just got to keep working and keep playing at that level for many years."

Couturier's game is something that has to be seen on a daily basis to be fully appreciated. Defenseman Justin Braun, in his first season with the Flyers after nine with the San Jose Sharks, has learned that.

"It's his strength on the puck," Braun said. "It seems like guys are where they need to be and they don't come out with the puck, and night in and night out doing that is pretty impressive. Guys that play him all the time know how strong he is and he just seems to come up with it all the time. ... I haven't seen him really have an awful game so far and you know if you can do that for 82 (games) you're a great player in this League."

Couturier, in his first season as an alternate captain, hopes his work ethic is rubbing off on some of his younger teammates.

"I just try to always play the right way, lead by example," he said. "I think there's a certain way to play to win some hockey games. It's not all about skills and being flashy out there and all that. I just try to be consistent and lead by example, just try to make sure I make the right decisions, the right plays, at the right time. And when you do that, you kind of demand that from younger guys, or expect them to learn that."

Video: BOS@PHI: Couturier nets lucky goal after losing puck

Joel Farabee is one of six Flyers players to make his NHL debut this season, and said Couturier has been the perfect role model.

"He's just one of those guys who does everything right," Farabee said. "I don't think [Couturier] is necessarily the loudest guy, he kind of keeps to himself, but you watch how hard he works and how he thinks the game, how he plays the game, everything's right. For me as a younger guy, to watch him play is really cool and he's definitely someone I look up to."

What will it take for more people to pay attention to Couturier? Winning. The Flyers missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and have gotten to the postseason four times in his first eight seasons, advancing past the first round once.

"When you're on a good team, when you go far in the playoffs, when you make runs, that's when guys get noticed," Couturier said. "Even some less flashy guys that don't put up points, in the long run when teams are winning you see the little things they do more and what they bring to the team, and I think it's just better for everyone when the team's winning."

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