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Flyers’ Sean Couturier out for season after back surgery; Risto won’t play Sat.



Sean Couturier. Philadelphia Flyers (AP photo)

Center Sean Couturier, the Flyers’ MVP in each of the last three years, will miss the rest of the season after undergoing successful back surgery Friday.

Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said Couturier had surgery performed by Dr. Jon Yoon at Pennsylvania Hospital, and that he should be at 100 percent for the start of training camp next season.

The injury occurred during the season, and “he tried to battle through it,” Fletcher said, adding Couturier had  treatment — including two epidurals — but that, in the end, surgery was required.

Couturier, 29, the Selke winner as the NHL’s best defensive forward in 2019-20, played in 29 games this season and had 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) and a minus-6 rating while obviously laboring on the ice.

The Flyers were 12-12-5 with Couturier in the lineup, and are 3-11-3 without him.

“You try to avoid back surgery if you can, but ultimately … he had the surgery today,” Fletcher said. “It’s about three months before he can return (to the ice).  Fortunately for him and us, it will give him time to have a normal summer of training and come back healthy.”

Fletcher said the doctor was “confident” Couturier would be 100% at training camp in September.

As for other injury updates, Fletcher said center Kevin Hayes, who has had abdominal and hip surgeries this season, may need another operation “to get him ready for next year.”

Fletcher said it was 50/50 Hayes would return to action this season. Hayes, who has played in 20 games (nines points, minus-12), has been skating before practices.

Defenseman Ryan Ellis (lower body) may need surgery, but he and the Flyers are trying to avoid it. A decision will be made in a few weeks, Fletcher said. Ellis, the Flyers’ prize off-season acquisition has played in just four games.

“Obviously his health is first and foremost,” Fletcher said, “and, second, the issue will be making sure he’s ready for next year. He’s worked hard and done everything he can, and we’ll see where we’re at.”

Fletcher said Tanner Laczynski, who had hip surgery, was about a week away from playing, and that Ryan Fitzpatrick, who also was sidelined by a hip injury, could play in about three weeks.

Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who has missed the last two practices, skated with the rehabbing players. He will miss Saturday’s game in Detroit and be replaced by Kevin Connauton.

Fletcher said right winger Tyson Foerster, one of the Flyers’ top prospects, has been skating and making progress after having shoulder surgery. He isn’t expected to play the rest of the season, but “everything is trending the right way,” Fletcher said.

Cates recalled

The Flyers recalled forward Jackson Cates from the Phantoms under emergency conditions, and it’s unknown who will come out of the lineup for Saturday’s noon game in Detroit.

The Flyers had announced that the 12 forwards who practiced Friday would face the Red Wings, so someone apparently became ill or has an injury.

Cates, 24, has one goal in nine games with the Flyers this season. His brother, Noah, is playing for the U.S. Olympic team.

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