WITH JAMES NEAL banned from Game 4, Flyers rookie Sean Couturier had one less thing to worry about on Wednesday night.

The fact that Couturier, 19, was back on the ice for Game 4 - considering Neal's blindside blow to the head in the waning moments of Game 3 - is a bit of a surprise in itself.

That's because Couturier, as a guest of Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live" on Wednesday evening, said he was "knocked out" and "unconscious" after Neal's suspension-worthy hit late in the third period.

When asked for a clarification by the Daily News, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said it was the first he was hearing of Couturier possibly losing consciousness.

Couturier said he received a baseline concussion test after the game. When asked to further clarify his comments, Couturier admitted that he did say he lost consciousness on "Daily News Live'' but that he misspoke. Couturier said the correct phrase would be that he was "seeing stars.''

Couturier said he was "maybe" hoping for a longer suspension for Neal, who was forced to sit out for just one game.

"You can't really control that," Couturier said. "The league did a good job. You've got to respect the decision."

If indeed Couturier was knocked unconscious, which does not appear to be the case in video replays, he would have sustained an automatic Grade III concussion, according to published medical reports.

Couturier said he sat out briefly and was examined by medical doctors in the locker room before returning to the Flyers' bench. He was hit with 5:20 left to play in the third period but returned to the bench by the 4:42 mark. During that time, the officials deliberated and doled out 64 minutes of penalties between both sides because of on-ice shenanigans, so much more than 38 seconds of actual time separated Couturier's hit from his return.

Hartnell flashback

Scott Hartnell was watching the Phoenix-Chicago game on TV Tuesday night and saw Raffi Torres' devastating check on Marian Hossa. Like most, he couldn't help but cringe. Unlike most, he had blood-chilling flashbacks.

Torres, the Coyotes' physical winger who has been in the NHL's discipline doghouse several times before, delivered a bone-crunching center-ice hit that left Hossa motionless. A hushed silence fell over the home crowd for several minutes as the Blackhawks forward was carted off the ice.

"I've been [taken] off on a stretcher a couple of times," Hartnell said Wednesday. "It's probably the worst feeling in the world. Your teammates are worried for you. There are 20,000 people in the stadium and people watching on TV. It's a scary feeling. You don't want to see that."

Hartnell said he sustained a concussion both times he was flattened. The first time was when he was an 18-year-old rookie for the Predators in 2000 and Carolina's Darren Langdon caught him with his head down.

"It was a clean hit," Hartnell said back then, "and I feel kind of stupid knowing I wasn't looking up. I don't know what I was thinking there, I was just looking at my skates."

Hartnell was carted off a second time the very next season when St. Louis' Reed Low drove him into the partition where the sideboards become the full wall, and then body-slammed him violently to the ice. Low was not suspended and Hartnell missed Nashville's final two games that season.

Hossa was taken to the hospital Tuesday night and later released. He will miss at least Thursday's Game 4 of the series, which Phoenix leads, 2-1. Torres was not penalized for the hit, but has been suspended indefinitely pending a Friday hearing with league sheriff Brendan Shanahan. Nine players already have been suspended in these playoffs for dangerous hits or nasty play, including four Penguins. Shanahan has been involved in more hearings lately than Ryan Leaf.

"I know [Torres] a little bit and the way he plays, he plays on that edge," Hartnell said. "He may have taken it a little too far, obviously. Right to the jaw, it looks bad. I'm not sure what's going to happen.''

Grossmann hurt

Flyers defenseman Nick Grossmann left Game 4 with 9:20 remaining in the second period after taking a hit near the boards in the Flyers' end.

According to Holmgren, Grossmann is day-to-day with an undisclosed upper-body injury. His status for Friday's Game 5 is unknown. Grossmann skated just 8:54 in total ice time on Wednesday.

He was evaluated on the bench before leaving the game. NBC 10's Howard Eskin reported postgame that Grossmann suffered a concussion and may not be available for Friday night.