For the Flyers, the medical news was mixed Monday. Captain Claude Giroux was unable to practice and will not play in Tuesday's key game in Carolina. But second-line center Sean Couturier said he felt ready to return to the lineup.
Couturier has missed the last nine games with an injured right foot/ankle. Monday marked his first practice with the team since he was sidelined.
"I feel ready to play," Couturier said after practice Monday in Voorhees. "I've been skating the last three or four days pretty hard, trying to get back in shape. Obviously, it might take a little while to get into game shape, but I'm not worried. I'm just going to try to keep it simple if I get to go and try to help the team."
Giroux, who may have a concussion, will miss his second straight game since getting elbowed in the head by Montreal's P.K. Subban on Friday. Without Giroux, the Flyers outlasted Toronto in overtime, 5-4, on Saturday.
The Flyers are 5-9-4 in games missed by Couturier, who suffered a concussion earlier in the season. They are 3-3-3 in games he has missed with his second injury.
"It was tough watching from home all these games and not being able to contribute," said Couturier, whose team is five points out of a playoff spot. "I've been working hard off the ice and trying to stay in shape."
Before his injury, Couturier started to blossom offensively, collecting 16 points in his last 16 games.
"It's probably the best stretch of my career," Couturier said. "I mean, the last two or three months were pretty good for me. I'm going to try to build off that. I still feel comfortable with my game coming back here."
Like Giroux, the Flyers use Couturier in all situations — even strength, power play, and penalty kill.
If Giroux is out for a long time — officially, he is listed as day to day — the Flyers will have little chance to sneak into the playoffs.
"He's our most valuable player," winger Wayne Simmonds said. "We've been missing a couple guys throughout the lineup, and I've thought we've done a pretty good job. Obviously, we'd love to have him. … But we just have to go about it like we did last game and take care of business. Everybody has to step up."
Should Couturier return Tuesday, "It's massive for us," Simmonds said. "He's one of our best players."
The Flyers are 3-0 against Carolina this season, with all three wins in overtime. The Hurricanes are one point ahead of the Flyers, who have two games in hand.
"We've had tough games against them. They play a fast game," said Hakstol, adding the Hurricanes' defensemen do a good job "jumping into the play."
Goalie Steve Mason said severe leg cramps caused him to leave Saturday's win in Toronto. "From my feet to my groin, everything was just locked up," he said. … Goalie Michal Neuvirth is expected to face the Hurricanes. … Hakstol praised the work of Brayden Schenn, who moved back to center Saturday and has eight goals in his last 14 games.