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Pens vs. Flyers Game 4 Preview: Seeking Separation after a tough break

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Everything you need to proceed with your enjoyment of Penguins vs. Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Basics

Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1) @ Philadelphia Flyers (1-2)

Start time: 7:00 PM

How to watch: Locally on AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, NBCSN nationally. Online find out how to stream on nbcsports.com

SBN complainers: Broad Street Hockey

Series to date: Pittsburgh opened up a Stone Cold can of whoop ass in Game 1, winning 7-0. Sidney Crosby recorded a hat trick. Philly bounced back to even the series in Game 2, beating the Pens 5-1. Then Pittsburgh re-established control in Game 3, blowing open the contest with 2 goals in 5 seconds in the 2nd period en route to a 5-1 win.

Eye on the Pens

Bad news came at practice with the announcement that Patric Hornqvist is out for Game 4 with an “upper body injury”. It’s a nervous time of year, but for the Penguins to announce on a Tuesday morning that a player is out for a Wednesday night game it doesn’t give too much hope of a return in the immediate future if they’re conceding so early an absence. (And what kind of upper body injury heals in a day or two?) Anyways, Hornqvist has taken a lot of abuse this series, being knocked into the boards in Games 2 and 3, he didn’t show any obvious injury but a player like him might not have even been bothered as much with the adrenaline and all.

Please note-the one thing the Pens do is label a concussion as a concussion. They do not classify a concussion as an “upper body injury” and have been consistent in this (most recently with Matt Murray). No one knows exactly what or where Hornqvist hurt, but at this point it’s very fair to say based on team protocol that as of now he has not been diagnosed with a concussion. That’s one bit of false internet doctoring and wondering out loud some fans gravitate towards so let’s just stomp that out right now.

Dominik Simon replaced Hornqvist on the Crosby line, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be playing the normal 13-15 even strength minutes tonight. I would expect a typical rotation of players up with the Guentzel-Crosby line, like Bryan Rust and maybe even Conor Sheary.

Hey, remember when Sheary scored two goals in one game against the Flyers last month? That was fun!

Would be great to see that again. Sheary has the lowest time on ice of any player on the team. He hasn’t done much to merit more, but this Hornqvist injury could be an opportunity for Sheary to get a look. Sheary has proven to be a streaky producer and while right now he’s at just 1 goal + 1 assist in six April games, he did score 5 points (3g+2a) in the seven games prior to that. Getting a contribution from him would be a very welcome thing this time of year.

Otherwise, the Pens just have to keep on keeping on. Shots overall in the series are 31.3 per game for Pittsburgh, 23.7 for Philly. High Danger 5v5 Scoring chances are 21-15 Pens. More impressively High Danger 5v5 Goals are 6-0 Pens.

The Pens are getting more shots, more chances and better goaltending, just have to keep on chugging.

And in the other corner, the self-injurers of Philadelphia

The dark pall hanging over the Flyers is the injury to Sean Couturier, suffered in practice yesterday when his own teammate took him out on a nasty looking hip-on-leg collision.

As Charlie O’Conner said in The Athletic

Couturier has probably been the team’s most effective one in the first three games of the series. He produced a dominant effort in Game 2, scoring a goal and adding two assists, including an absolute beauty between-the-legs pass to set up Nolan Patrick’s power play goal. Couturier has averaged 24:35 minutes per game, and in those minutes, he’s been one of only two Flyers forwards above 48% in both on-ice Corsi For Percentage and xG Percentage at 5-on-5 (after adjustment). He’s also been the second-most used forward on the penalty kill. A Couturier absence would be devastating.

Prior to the injury the Flyers had slightly switched lines and were going with:

Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek

Travis Konecny - Nolan Patrick - Wayne Simmonds

Jordan Weal - Valtteri Filppula - Michael Raffl

Scott Laughton - Jori Lehtera - Matt Read

Philly placed Patrick up a line in between Giroux-Voracek following the Couturier injury. If they are sans Sean tonight, presumably they’re promoting Filppula to the 2nd line and Lehtera to the 3rd. Those two lining up potentially against Evgeni Malkin and Derick Brassard respectively is a HUGE advantage Pittsburgh. (To say nothing of throwing a 19-year old out there against an in-the-zone Sidney Crosby).

So it will be a very intriguing storyline to watch. If Couturier can play, will he be able to keep up with Crosby and Malkin? Even if he got lucky and only suffered a charley-horse or a deep bruise or something like that, it would seem daunting to keep up with the Pens centers on a bad leg.

It’s unlikely Philly will announce much until game time, so wait and see. Really, I doubt it matters to the Pens. They’re on the road and never really too concerned with chasing matchups anyways. If Couturier can play, they’ll line up and play against him. If he can’t play, they’ll line up and play against whomever is out there. The emotional jolt will probably be bigger for the fans, especially those in attendance.

They said it

“I didn’t see him. He didn’t see me. Tough break.” — Radko Gudas. (That’s my new saying for the Flyers. Tough break.)