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Sean Couturier frustrated by benching, how things have been handled lately

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers have given up 5.25 goals per game over their last four games and they face the NHL’s most prolific goal scorer Tuesday night in the heat of a playoff race.

John Tortorella has decided to combat Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs without Sean Couturier.

Without the player that has a “C” on his jersey and a 2019-20 Selke Trophy on his résumé.

Couturier will be a healthy scratch.

Tortorella, a veteran head coach with a Stanley Cup ring, has pushed plenty of the right buttons this season. But undoubtedly, this is one of his boldest decisions in two seasons with the Flyers.

Couturier, as competitive as they get, a nothing-comes-easy-against-me center, was visibly disappointed Tuesday after morning skate.

“It’s tough,” he said. “I feel I’ve been putting the work in for a while, I know I’ve been struggling, trying to work on my game. Definitely frustrated with the way I’ve been treated around, I guess, lately. It is what it is.”

Amid the struggles, the 31-year-old saw a demotion in the lineup starting around mid-February. His minutes were cut considerably. After missing almost 22 months because of two back surgeries, Couturier opened the season healthy and as the Flyers’ first-line center. He performed and was used like one despite the long layoff.

Recently, Couturier’s game has appeared to improve. As the Flyers have surrendered goals at a concerning clip, Couturier has recorded an assist, has won 26 of his 40 faceoffs (65 percent) and has just a minus-1 rating.

Could now be the time for more minutes, to rely on the guy highly regarded for his defensive track record?

“I think there are a number of players, him being one, that need to be better,” Tortorella said Monday after practice.

As the Flyers host Toronto (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP), Couturier will watch along with Cam Atkinson, Denis Gurianov and Marc Staal.

“I’ve gotten the same answers as you guys, just need to see more,” Couturier said. “I’m still looking to find out what that is. I’m trying every game, it’s not like I’m just sitting around or doing nothing I think. I felt the last couple of games, with the limited ice time or opportunities I’ve been getting, I’ve been doing all right. But I guess we’re going with the best lineup available tonight to get a win, so it is what it is.

“Doesn’t matter, honestly, what I think. I’ve got to leave my ego aside I guess. Hopefully the team finds a way to get a win here tonight and I can get back into it soon.”

Couturier played a season-low 11:10 minutes last Saturday in the Flyers’ 6-5 loss to the Bruins. He has played under 13 minutes four times over the past 14 games. Over his previous six seasons, he had never played under 13 minutes in a full game.

Are the fewer minutes a way to monitor Couturier’s workload or is it strictly performance-related?

“I think that’s more of a question for Torts and how Torts manages his minutes,” assistant coach Rocky Thompson said Tuesday. “I can’t get into the mind of our head coach that way. I think Coots has done a good job, he works extremely hard in practice and he’s trying to get himself better, without a doubt.”

At the end of February, Tortorella said the scaling back of Couturier’s usage was not for the purpose of managing his minutes.

Suffice it to say a benching at this time of the year will test a competitor like Couturier, a Flyer since he was 18.

“I control what I can control, it is what it is,” he said. “We move on.”

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