Couturier Relishing Opportunity To Step Up

12 Dec

VOORHEES, N.J. — When Sean Couturier made the Flyers’ roster, he was a cool customer. He didn’t show any signs of nervousness and quietly did whatever he had to in order to stick around. Now, with Claude Giroux out of the lineup, Couturier has a whole new opportunity and predictably he is just rolling with the punches.

For most of the third period on Saturday and in practice on Monday, Couturier took Giroux’s spot in between Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr.

“You know, we had to move somebody up,” said Peter Laviolette. “Claude wasn’t on the ice. We finished the game that way the other night, we had moved Sean up there. He generated two or three good quality scoring chances. We just had to get through practice today, and we’ll figure out the lines and the lineup tomorrow.

“But just based on the way he finished the game the other night, we thought he did a good job so we put him there in practice.”

By all accounts, it looks like Couturier will play the same role in Washington on Tuesday and that’s just fine with him.

“It’s pretty fun,” said the rookie. “Obviously you gotta be always ready when they’re out there. Some passes you don’t expect sometimes that those guys can make so I’ve always got to be ready if I play with them.

“Obviously it’s a big spot to be in but I’m just gonna be myself and do whatever I can to help the team.”

Giroux has 16 goals and 23 assists. He’s the leading scorer in the NHL. That obviously isn’t the expectation for 19-year-old Couturier, nor does he feel the pressure to fill his teammate’s skates.

“Not really,” said Couturier. “It’s an opportunity so I try to see it that way and just do what I can do to help the team.

“I try to play the same way, two-way forward. I still have to take care of my own end first. When we’re in the offensive zone we obviously can create more. With those two guys, they have a lot of talent so it’s easier to create stuff.”

His new linemates are guys he hasn’t skated with all season, not even in practice and not in preseason. They’ve watched each other from the bench, but the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s game was the first time they’re really gotten to know each other as players.

“I think all of his game is underrated,” said Jagr of his new center. “I can see he’s a great player. When he’s had a chance to play, he’s a very good player. He’s got a lot of scoring chances on penalty kills. Not many guys can do that.”

Couturier will try not to be awestruck by his new right winger, but he admitted that there is a certain shock factor to how Jagr operates.

“When you’re on the bench you say ‘wow,’ but when you’re out there but when you’re out there you’ve got to be ready for those ‘wow’ plays,” said Couturier. “I just got to be ready and prepare to get some nice passes.”

Giroux and Jagr didn’t take long to form the chemistry that has aided both players to No. 1 and No. 3 respectively on the team in scoring.

“Sometimes, it takes forever. Sometimes, it’s five minutes,” said Jagr. “I feel like there’s a lot of skill in this dressing room. I would play we play a similar style, all the players, especially on the first three lines. I think everybody can play with everybody on the first three lines.”

For most of the season, Couturier hasn’t been in that top nine. Now he’s not only in that mix. He’s front and center.

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