NHL Buzz: Couturier week to week for Flyers with upper-body injury

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Chicago Blackhawks

Jujhar Khaira (concussion protocol) could play against the Nashville Predators on Saturday (2 p.m. ET; BSSO, NBCSCH, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

The forward has not played since he was taken off the ice on a stretcher following a hit by New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba in a 6-2 loss on Dec. 7.

“Even when [Khaira] first practiced, came back on the ice and guys saw him, you could see the guys light up,” Blackhawks coach Derek King said Friday. “I’m looking forward to having him back, I know the team is. He can’t go out there and I call it, ‘Forrest Gump’ game. If you watch the movie, he did so much in how long, 2 ½ hours? I don’t need [Khaira] going out there, trying to be the hero and solve our problems in three periods. He has to play his game and manage it.”

Khaira has scored two goals in 18 games this season.

Forward Henrik Borgstrom (non-COVID related illness) was also activated and could play against Nashville. He has three points (two goals, one assist) in 17 games.

Goalie Kevin Lankinen was placed in COVID protocol Friday. — Tracey Myers

 

Philadelphia Flyers

Sean Couturier is week to week with an upper-body injury.

The forward was placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol on Dec. 26 and did not play for Philadelphia in its return from the holiday break on Dec. 29, a 3-2 overtime win against the Seattle Kraken.

Couturier scored 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 29 games. He last played Dec. 18, when he had an assist in a 4-3 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Jeff Carter entered NHL COVID-19 protocol on Friday for the second time this season. 

The center previously missed three games while in protocol from Oct. 23-28. Carter is fifth on the Penguins with 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 27 games. 
Carter’s absence leaves Pittsburgh without three centers for its next scheduled game against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.

Evgeni Malkin, the second-line center when healthy, is nearing a return from knee surgery June 4, but will not play. Carter has been second-line center after filling in on the first line for Sidney Crosby, who made his season debut Oct. 30 after missing the first seven games because of wrist surgery before being unavailable the following five games while in COVID protocol. 

Teddy Blueger, who had been third line center, is also in COVID protocol.

Pittsburgh currently has seven players in protocol. In addition to Carter and Blueger, forwards Dominik Simon, Kasperi Kapanen, defensemen Mike Matheson and John Marino and goalie Tristan Jarry are in protocol.

Evan Rodrigues went into protocol Monday, but was removed Friday. He has been first-line left wing in place of Jake Guentzel (upper body), who could return along with first-line right wing Bryan Rust (lower body) against San Jose. 

The Penguins are also without second-line left wing Jason Zucker, who is week to week with a lower-body injury. — Wes Crosby

 

Colorado Avalanche

Forwards Mikko Rantanen and Logan O’Connor practiced for the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday after being removed from NHL COVID-19 protocol and could play Sunday at home against the Anaheim Ducks.

“Both guys looked pretty good,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “You could tell it was a little bit hard to work for them as some of the other guys. [O’Connor] looked like he was hurting a little bit from a conditioning standpoint, but we still have two more practices before we play Anaheim.”

Rantanen practiced at right wing on the top line with left wing Gabriel Landeskog and center Nathan MacKinnon. O’Connor was at right wing on a line with left wing J.T. Compher and center Alex Newhook.

Defensemen Ryan Murray and Bowen Byram practiced in regular jerseys for the first time since each was injured. Murray has missed nine games with a lower-body injury he sustained Nov. 27 against the Nashville Predators and Byram missed eight games with a head injury he sustained Dec. 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bednar said goalie Pavel Francouz could return from COVID-19 protocol as early as Friday, and forward Darren Helm could clear protocol Saturday.

The Avalanche (17-8-2) are 13-2-1 in the past 16 games. They haven’t played since a 5-2 loss against Nashville on Dec. 16. — Rick Sadowski

 

St. Louis Blues

Pavel Buchnevich, Ivan Barbashev and Oskar Sundqvist have been cleared to play for the Blues against the Minnesota Wild in the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic at Target Field in Minneapolis on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; TNT, SN1, TVAS, ESPN LIVE).

Buchnevich missed a 4-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday because of a non-COVID-19 illness but the forward took part in an optional practice Thursday. Barbashev, a forward, was removed from NHL COVID-19 protocol Thursday.

Buchnevich is second on the Blues with 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 29 games. Barbashev is fourth with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in 31 games.

“They’re both fine,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “‘Buchy’ is feeling a lot better today and ‘Barby’ is cleared to play. … I think [Buchnevich] is cleared to play; he skated today. I think he’s fine. I can’t predict two days later.

“Barby has just one skate, is going to skate tomorrow night a little bit. We’ve got options, so it’s a good thing.”

Sundqvist was removed from COVID-19 protocol Tuesday and the forward has practiced the past three days but was not available to play Wednesday.

“‘Sunny’ I think’s a go,” Berube said. “He’s skated now a couple times; he’s feeling pretty good.”

Forward Brayden Schenn, who has not played since sustaining an upper-body injury Dec. 12, skated Thursday, his fifth straight day of practice, but Berube was not sure of his availability.

“‘Schenner’ is still up in the air,” he said. “We’ll have to play that one by ear. It’s how he feels. I think it’s day to day and it feels different. He’s a tough one, so we’ll have to wait and see how it goes.”

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and forward Dakota Joshua, each in COVID-19 protocol since Dec. 26, will not travel to Minneapolis. — Lou Korac

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