WASHINGTON (AP) — The Philadelphia Flyers will have to try to mount a comeback against the Washington Capitals without one of their best players. The New York Rangers are optimistic they will have their franchise player back for a rally against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Flyers announced Friday that center Sean Couturier will miss the rest of the first round because of an upper-body injury. And Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said he hopes to be back on the ice for Game 2 on Saturday (3 p.m. EDT, NBC) after taking a teammate’s stick to the eye Wednesday but avoiding what could have been a catastrophic injury.
“Happy it’s nothing serious,” Lundqvist said. “Probably 20-30 seconds there I had some really bad thoughts going through my head. Very scary, actually. Everything happened so fast.”
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault will wait until Saturday to decide whether Lundqvist will make his franchise-record 112th consecutive playoff start or go with backup Antti Raanta. Lundqvist looked sharp during an hour-long practice session Friday, saying there are no apparent issues with his eyesight despite continued swelling.
Injuries have already had a major impact on the two Metropolitan Division series. The Penguins were without their top goaltenders, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray, for Game 1. Fleury, who has been out with a concussion, said he didn’t expect to return Saturday, which would mean another start for No. 3 goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made 35 saves in his playoff debut.
New York will be without defenseman Dan Girardi because of an undisclosed injury, while Pittsburgh appears closer to getting center Evgeni Malkin back. Malkin practiced Friday, and his presence would be a major boost for the Penguins.
“Anybody who’s injured and starting to practice with the team, it’s encouraging,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “He looks really strong. It’s only a matter of time here.”
The Flyers said Couturier is expected to be out for two weeks and they will miss his penalty-killing, faceoff abilities and overall defensive prowess against skill-heavy Washington.
“It’s huge,” Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “Coots is our defensive anchor out there. He’s such a good defensive forward. We’re going to miss him, but it’s the next guy in line sort of mentality.”
Brayden Schenn will likely slide into the second-line center spot and 21-year-old Scott Laughton who will get into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for nine of the past 11 games. Neither player brings the same all-around game of Couturier, whose departure from Game 1 coincided with the Capitals taking over.
“It probably didn’t hurt because I know Sean is a quality hockey player and relied on by the Flyers to be sort of their stopper guy,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “Couturier’s an important part of what they do.”
Effort isn’t a question and neither is intensity, especially after a physical start to the series that included a big hit by the Capitals’ Tom Wilson on Andrew MacDonald and an ensuing fight with Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds. The big question is how Simmonds might respond in Game 2 on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. EDT, CNBC).
“He’s the X-factor for them,” Wilson said. “I hope I didn’t wake him up there. He’s obviously going to be coming out in Game 2 flying like the rest of their team. They’re going to be champing at the bit to get another crack at us.”
Other things to watch for on Day 4 of the Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday:
Wild at Stars, Dallas leads 1-0, 8 p.m. EDT, NBCSN
After going with the hot hand and playing Kari Lehtonen in Game 1 of the playoffs, Stars coach Lindy Ruff wasn’t saying Friday whether he’d go back to him or start Antti Niemi in Game 2. It sure seems like he has a fairly easy decision after Lehtonen stopped 22 shots against Minnesota for his second career playoff shutout.
“He didn’t make any mistakes,” Ruff said after the 4-0 win for the top-seeded Stars. “He played a real great game for us.”
Stars center Tyler Seguin appears to be on pace to return from an Achilles injury that has sidelined him since mid-March. Ruff said there was “no comparison” between how Seguin looked Friday from where he was earlier in the week, a great sign for Dallas.
Sharks at Kings, San Jose leads 1-0, 10:30 p.m. EDT, NBCSN
The Sharks could face a depleted Kings blue line in Game 2 after Alec Martinez played just under 12 minutes Thursday. Los Angeles recalled defenseman Kevin Gravel from the minors, and Martinez did not skate with the team Friday.
It could be Jamie McBain’s opportunity to step in to make his postseason debut. Either way, the Sharks know better than to feel confident about leading the Kings after blowing a 3-0 series lead to them in 2014, when Los Angeles went on to win the Cup.
AP Sports Writers Will Graves in Pittsburgh and Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.