Cousins has big skates to fill for Flyers

As the news was released about Sean Couturier being on the injury list for four weeks due to a lower-body injury, a collective sigh could be heard all across Philadelphia. A talented forward was down, almost necessary for the Flyers to have success, was down. 

How do you replace a player who seems irreplaceable? Enter center Nick Cousins, who was called from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Cousins is having an excellent season with the Phantoms. He is tied sixth with 12 goals, 26 assists totaling 38 points. Cousins is also tied for the team lead in game-winning goals with four and second in power play points with 13. Cousins was also selected to play in last week's AHL All-Star Game.

With only 17 NHL games under his belt, it's a herculean task for the rookie center, who has been thrown into the fire being asked to fill some big skates for a team still in the hunt for a playoff spot.

With Couturier out, Cousins has filled in admirably thus far between with Sam Gagner and Brayden Schenn, in Couturier's spot. Sunday's game against Washington was Cousins sixth game of the season.

So far, he has brought energy to his shifts and has done a good job of holding down the two-way role that came with the call-up. He plays with edge and has created some opportunities out on the ice and he is confident.

He was also finally rewarded for some hard-working plays in his six games at the NHL level this season when he earned his first point, an assist, on Michael Del Zotto's goal on Sunday. He has yet to score a goal, but certainly has found himself around the net in many situations.

That first NHL goal will be coming soon too. 

Sean Couturier's skates may never truly be filled over this four-week recovery the Flyers have to face, but Cousins is up and trying to prove, more than anything, that he belongs at the NHL level. This isn't about replacing Couturier. This is about stepping into a role that could very well earn Cousins a spot with the Flyers in the future when Couturier is indeed healthy. If you need any example there, look to No. 53 on the blue line.

In the same sense that Shayne Gostisbehere took his chance and never looked back, this is potentially Cousins best chance to prove his worth to the Flyers. He will certainly get a long-term look, with the Flyers still set to play 12 more games in February all without Couturier.

With four long weeks ahead of him, and the Flyers fighting for points to climb up the standings, fans can hope to see Nick Cousins improve each game and mold into a player that could help revitalize the bottom-6 of the forward group. As a standout at forward in the minors, it's his time to show what he can do with an extended NHL look. 

Denise Mroz is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow her on Twitter @denisemroz10.

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