Bad, baaad fucking news, boys. Sean Couturier is going to be too injured to play tonight in Pittsburgh. It's a mysterious lower body injury, and nobody really seems to have a read on what's wrong with him.
The Flyers announced the scratch after warmups this morning in Pittsburgh, and it seems like Flyers twitter is in absolute shambles right now. Coots generally is tasked with shutting down the Malkin line (and Giroux tends to play against the Crosby line), This gameplan, recently, has been almost unbeatable against Pittsburgh - the Flyers have won their last 64 matchups with the Penguins.
But tonight is going to be tough, and it's deeper than just "we can't stick Coots on Malkin." The game is in Pittsburgh, which means Penguins coach (Googles who that is) Mike Sullivan is going to have the ability to seek the matchups that he desires. So if he doesn't want Crosby/Malkin going against Giroux's line, he can yank them off and send them out against the Ryan White line or the RJ Umberger line.
(Puts gun in mouth)
We can fix this. We need to balance at least three lines so that we don't leave a crappy trio out there to get torched. If we happen to notice three guys are playing like crap, we'll sit them or heavily shelter them.
Necessity is the mother of invention, so to speak, so here is version 8 of the Flyers 2015-16 lineup card (the general theme of these lines is "let's throw some shit at the wall to see what might work"):
Laughton - Giroux - Vandevelde
Laughton's two shortcomings this season have been (1) lack of ice time/ability to get into a rhythm (2) issues in the defensive zone. So let's throw him with the captain to let him get some solid usage and put him with two of the better defensive forwards that we have.
If Laughton stinks again early, I'd LOVE to see a White-Giroux-VV line. I advocated for this months ago, and I don't think there's a better time for that trio than a game against Pittsburgh where we're scrambling. 25-28-76 is a phenomenal bunker/trenches type of line.
Voracek - Schenn - Read
Brayden hasn't really showed that he can center a line yet, but Voracek is talented enough that he carried the Bellemare/Vandevelde experiment to a respectable line. Mix in Read, who's stellar basically from end to end, and this is another line that can chew up minutes against the Penguins' big boys.
There's also quite a big of offensive skill here, so they could punish the Pens' bottom six if given the chance.
Simmonds - Bellemare - Raffl
This is a prototypical checking line, essentially just a pair of upgrades on the usual White-Bellemare-Vandevelde line. They should be solid in all three zones (maybe even a little devious in the attacking zone), and they're all big enough to carry their own defensively.
Umberger - Weal - White
And now it all goes to shit. Even if we shelter this line or swap White and Laughton, Weal is a total question mark. Umberger is a thumbs down emoji with the font size dragged all the way up as big as possible. Ideally they'd play 8-10 minutes, but Umberger was -2 (with two missed open goals) in under 6 minutes on Tuesday.
If the goal is to mitigate the damage, we need to split up the Giroux/Voracek/Simmonds line and the Raffl/Schenn pairing. It's nice to be top-heavy when you can play matchups and the team is at full strength, but we don't have either of those luxuries tonight.
It's going to be a rough ride, and we're going to find out a lot about how much fight this team has. I expect absolutely ferocious games from everyone, but especially Giroux, Del Zotto, and Brayden Schenn. I'm also going to be keeping an eye on Shayne Gostisbehere, because this feels like a milestone game for him (his first against Pittsburgh) and I'm excited to see how he handles it.
(Update: The Flyers have recalled Sam Gagner! Here comes the hungry cavalry! I could see him being slotted in for Read with Voracek/Schenn (bumping read down to Umberger's spot) or just swapping Gagner in directly for Umberger. If Gagner goes to that fourth line, I'd bump White up to Giroux's line to leave us with Laughton-Weal-Gagner as the sheltered line.)
Follow along on twitter, I'll be going back and forth between #coldones and chugging bleach. Let's go Flyers.