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NHL Notebook: Vincent Desharnais returns to Oilers lineup against Maple Leafs, Flyers’ Sean Couturier back in lineup for 3-2 win over Bruins, and more

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Aleena Aksenchuk
26 days ago
After suffering a hand injury, Edmonton Oilers defenceman Vincent Desharnais is back in the lineup on Saturday night as the Oilers face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.
Late in the second period against the Colorado Avalanche on March 16th, Desharnais and Avalanche’s Josh Manson dropped the gloves, throwing a handful of fists, enough for Desharnais to head into the dressing room following the fight. Although he returned to the bench, the defenceman did not take another shift in the third period.
The fight marked Desharnais’ fourth of the season and fifth since joining the Oilers during the 2022-23 season.
Desharnais suffered a broken finger on the play, sidelining him for two games: A 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on March 19th and an 8-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on March 21st.
With his recent injury, Desharnais has now missed four games throughout the 2023-24 campaign and has registered nine points in 63 appearances. Desharnais scored his first NHL goal in the Oilers’ 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on October 29th but has not found the back of the net since.
The defenceman spent the first three seasons of his professional career in the minors with the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors and East Coast Hockey League’s Wichita Thunder. He made his NHL debut in January 2023, becoming a regular in the Oilers lineup until the team lost to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the second round of the NHL playoffs.
Desharnais is now in the final year of his two-year contract agreement with a $762,500 AAV, which sets him up to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Ahead of Saturday’s contest, the Oilers hold a record of 42-21-4 and currently sit second in the Pacific Division, eight points behind the first-place Vancouver Canucks, and five points ahead of the third-place Los Angeles Kings.

Flyers’ Sean Couturier back in lineup for 3-2 win over Bruins

Philadelphia Flyers captain Sean Couturier was back in the lineup on Saturday for the team’s 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins after being a healthy scratch for the Flyers’ previous two games.
Couturier played 13:09 centring the fourth line alongside Jackson Cates and Olle Lycksell and winning four of eight face-offs to contribute to the win.
On Tuesday night, Couturier was scratched before the Flyers’ 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. When the media asked head coach John Tortorella about Courtier on Thursday, he told reporters, “I’m not talking on Sean.”
It was then announced that Couturier was again a healthy scratch ahead of the Flyers’ 3-2 overtime loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
After scoring nine goals and 23 points in the first 31 games of the season, Couturier had an excellent start to this year’s campaign after missing the entirety of the 2022-23 season with injuries and only made 29 appearances in 2021-22.
However, the last 27 games have told a different story. The six-foot-four forward has only scored one goal and nine points; in the past nine games, those numbers have declined even more as Couturier only recorded a single assist while averaging 14:04 of ice time per night, a four-minute difference from his season average of 18:36.
Couturier holds the highest cap hit on the Flyers at $7.75 million and is in the second year of an eight-year deal, which runs until the end of the 2029-30 campaign.
Ahead of Saturday night, the Flyers sit third in the Metropolitan Division with 81 points. Behind them by four points are the Washington Capitals, who are battling to seal the third-place spot in the division or one of two Wild Card spots for the Eastern Conference, currently held by the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings.

Roundtable: Which NHL bubble team would be the most chilling Round 1 playoff team in 2023-24?

It’s officially the final stretch of the NHL regular season, and both Eastern and Western Conferences have some solid wild card races.
To put it into perspective, let’s say you’re a top contending team in either conference and on pace to face a Wildcard opponent in the first round; who would you NOT want to face as a ‘reward’ for finishing high in the standings? 
Once again, Daily Faceoff contributors have taken it upon themselves to answer this question.
The Atlantic Division is exceptionally well-rounded, especially the Tampa Bay Lightning. With a core that went on to see three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals and winning two of those (2020 and 2021), they’re certainly not a team that would be smart to bet against. 
“My biggest question: what version of Andrei Vasilevskiy are we going to see?,” questioned Steven Ellis. “The fact he’s more rested than he was in previous years intrigues me.”
One of the most obvious answers is the Las Vegas Golden Knights. 
“Yes, I know, the Golden Knights have really struggled the last few weeks,” said Frank Seravlli. “Hell, it’s actually longer than that. Since Dec. 1, the Golden Knights are 23rd in the league in points percentage (.510) with a 21-20-3 record. They’re the definition of ‘mid’ since then. I don’t care.”
For Scott Maxwell, the New York Islanders are the team he wouldn’t want to face in the first round. 
“The Isles are a sneaky one that I think would even surprise the team they’re facing,” said Maxwell.
“Since Patrick Roy took over, they’ve been a top five team in terms of expected goal suppression, similarly to the Isles teams that went on runs to the Conference Finals, if not doing so even better than those teams, and every player that played for both Barry Trotz and Roy has seen their defensive metrics improve to what they were in the Trotz era.”
The Nashville Predators are another team that came up in the discussion after going completely nuclear with a 14-0-2 record over the current 16-game point streak. 
Forward Gustav Nyquist has recorded 62 poised in 70 games. Ryan O’Reilly has rebounded this season, scoring 24 goals and 58 points alongside a handful of other achievements from other players on the Predators lineup. 
“This is a team riding a bit of a magical wave and I’m fascinated to see where it takes them,” said Mike Gould. “I sure wouldn’t want to face them in the first round.”
Finally, Hunter Crowther decided on the Detroit Red Wings. 
Although there are concerns regarding the goaltending of Alex Lyon, Dylan Larkin has had the highest goals-per-game rate of his career at 0.5, and he would most likely like to add another few games to his total of five career playoff contests. Patrick Kane is also reverting more and more to his old self with each game and has made his career off his playoff performances. 
“Springtime means Showtime,” said Crowther. “While they may not be consistent, there’s nothing scarier in a best-of-seven than a wild card.”

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