DALLAS - When the Flyers acquired gritty winger Steve Downie from Colorado five weeks ago, they didn't do it with the intention of jump-starting a young center who had struggled for more than a season.
But that's exactly what has happened.
After missing four games because of a concussion, Downie has been the main reason for Sean Couturier's emergence. Downie has consistently won board battles, created space for Couturier and winger Matt Read, and set up his teammates with his surprising passing ability.
"I don't think they've had a bad game since Downie's come over," winger Scott Hartnell said.
Together, they have been the Flyers' best line in the last three weeks, keying the team's climb back into the Metropolitan Division playoff picture.
Couturier, who has four goals over the last four games and is blossoming into the player the Flyers thought he would be when they selected him eighth overall in the 2011 draft, credits Downie for the line's eye-opening play.
"On the breakout, he's willing to take the hit to make that pass or make that play and he gives you an extra second or two to skate," Couturier said after collecting a career-best four points in Wednesday's 6-3 comeback win in Detroit. "He's been a big part of the success of our line."
The line, generally regarded as the Flyers' No. 3 unit, has combined for 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in the last 10 games.
By comparison, the top unit - Claude Giroux centering Hartnell and Jake Voracek - has produced 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in that span despite usually getting more ice time.
"We're having great chemistry and finding each other and creating some space for one another," said Couturier, who turns 21 on Saturday. "We're just keeping it simple, putting pucks on net and having guys at the net, and that's how we're creating chances."
What makes the line's offensive eruption so beneficial is that the group also is responsible for shutting down opponents' top units.
Checking lines rarely score at the rate that Couturier and Co. are producing.
Call it the Check-Cashing Line.
"Because of their checking, they get offensive chances," coach Craig Berube said.
"We're just trying to play smart and get pucks deep," said Read, who has five goals in his last seven games and is tied with Vinny Lecavalier for the team lead with nine goals. "Our goal is to be a plus line at the end of the night, and if we're a plus line, it gives our team a better chance to win games."
The line "has definitely carried us through what could have been a real tough stretch for us, and doing all they can do keep us afloat," goalie Steve Mason said.
The Flyers are 2-1 on their six-game road trip, which will continue in Dallas on Saturday afternoon. They are back at .500 at 13-13-2 - quite a feat considering their 1-7 start.
Breakaways. Couturier leads the Flyers with a plus-10 rating. . . . Boosted by a 3-for-3 performance in Wednesday's win in Detroit, the Flyers' power play has connected on 26.3 percent of its attempts, third-best in the NHL. . . . Lecavalier (back spasms) is still listed as day to day. . . . In their last four games, the Flyers have killed 19 of 20 penalties; the exception was a five-on-three in Detroit. . . . A smiling Couturier after being told the Flyers had notched just their second win in Detroit since 1988: "I wasn't even born back then."