Life without Sean Couturier begins on Monday for the Philadelphia Flyers against arguably the weakest team in the East Division, the Buffalo Sabres.
The veteran star forward will miss at least two weeks after suffering a costochondral separation, which is when a rib tears away from the cartilage that connects it to the breastbone.
Couturier recorded one assist in the four periods he played to start the season — his injury the lone downside of a flying start from Philadelphia, who swept its in-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins in a two-game homestand at Wells Fargo Center to open up the 56-game 2021 campaign.
The Flyers’ offense was expected to be a potent one this season with its forward lines suddenly teeming with depth. While that’s going to be put to the test already with Couturier’s absence, they already have nine players with two points or more through the first two games of the season.
Rookie center Morgan Frost, who was taken 27th overall in the 2017 draft, is expected to step in for Couturier. It remains to be seen which line he’ll play on, though.
“Injuries are part of the game,” said Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault. “Somebody else is going to step in… Somebody else is going to have to play well for us.”
Things shouldn’t slow down too much against a Sabres team that was swept in their two-game opening series against the Washington Capitals — who many put up alongside the Flyers as one of the favorites of the East Division.
Buffalo has given up eight goals in its first two games, which is an inauspicious start for a team that needs to find some help for star youngster, Rasmus Dahlin. The Sabres’ biggest move of the offseason, however, wasn’t to bolster its blue line. It was acquiring left-winger Taylor Hall to flank alongside Jack Eichel.
The imposing duo has three points apiece in their first two games, but Buffalo’s lack of depth puts insurmountable pressure on the star forwards to produce. Considering they’re in what many deem the toughest division in hockey, it’s going to be a race to last place between them and the Devils.
Philadelphia shouldn’t have any issues with the Sabres considering how they took care of business against Pittsburgh. But coming off a two-game rivalry series that provides an added intensity, there is always the threat of a letdown looming just behind the curtain.