Game 4 Storyline
The Pittsburgh Penguins look to go up 3-1 in the series against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight and one of the storylines entering tonight is a key injury on both sides.
For Philadelphia, it’s the uncertainty surrounding a lower body injury to top-line center Sean Couturier who taken was out in a wicked collision with goon defenseman Radko Gudas in Tuesday’s practice. If Couturier can suit up, there’s still questions of how effective he will be.
For as great as Sidney Crosby has been in the series, 4 goals and 3 assists in 7 games, Couturier at full strength is the Flyers only hope of slowing down Crosby who is at 48% in possession head-to-head vs Couturier in the series and at 66% when away from Couturier.
For Pittsburgh, it’s the loss of Patric Hornqvist.
The Penguins won a playoff game last postseason against a much better Washington team without Sidney Crosby, so the Hornqvist is not a game changer by any means, losing a Crosby, Malkin or Matt Murray would be, but this is still a tough loss for the Penguins that could have an impact tonight.
One of Hornqvist’s greatest attributes is when this team is going through a lull, he’s often the player who can change momentum without having to score a goal.
“Horny’s not an easy guy to replace,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said on Tuesday. “He’s a unique player for us, and he brings a lot. So I think we are just going to have to replace him by committee. We’re going to have to pick up the pieces”
The Penguins will move Dominik Simon into lineup and the preliminary plans appears to be to plug Simon with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. Simon has made an impact on the top line in short doses, so it’s easy to see the coaching staff’s thinking there.
Phil Kessel will move up to the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin, while Derick Brassard will center Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary.
Without Hornqvist, there’s a greater impact in spacing out the wingers by putting Rust on the third line and playing Simon with Crosby.
The biggest areas to watch with the Hornqvist injury is on the power play.
The recipe for the Flyers to even up the series tonight is hoping Game 2 happens again:
Brian Elliott play over his head, win the special teams battle by a significant margin and one of their big boys have a great game as in Game 2 it was Sean Couturier.
The Penguins can’t replace Hornqvist’s ability in the net-front area on the power play. What he does is beyond just a player going out there and trying to be a carlie hustle. Hornqvist is unique is how smart of a net-front player he is.
Without Hornqvist the Flyers will surely be tempting to cheat up top and take away the shooting lanes Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"