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Coots: After ‘Embarrassing’ Season, Flyers ‘Think We Can Surprise a Lot of People’

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Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

Sean Couturier, the Philadelphia Flyers’ top-line center, said he went through a long recovery from February back surgery and had some setbacks early in the summer, but he is now healthy and “ready to go.”

In a wide-ranging news conference Monday at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, Couturier said he was cleared to play two weeks ago, and that he was “back to normal.”

That’s good news for a Flyers team that is coming off a disastrous season.

“It was longer than I thought,” Couturier said of his grueling rehab. “I’m a guy who wants to get back out there quicker than I should be. This one was a little more frustrating because I had to be patient and not push it too hard — and make sure it was healing the right way. It’s good, though, so I’m excited.”

Because of the back problem, Couturier was limited to 29 games last season, when the injury-plagued Flyers finished last in the Metropolitan Division.

Point to Prove

“I want to prove I’m healthy against and be back to the player I was,” Couturier said.

He paused slightly.

“And maybe even better,” he said. “I’m going to push myself.”

This will be the Flyers’ first season under coach John Tortorella.

“Torts is here to kind of do that — push ourselves, make it a tough camp, with a lot of skating and see if we’re in shape,” said Couturier, who was the Flyers’ MVP for three straight seasons before last year. “I’m going to prove myself, like everyone else, and show that I’m back to who I was.”

Couturier met with Tortorella a few days after the veteran coach he was hired.

“He seems like a great guy off the ice,” Couturier said. “He’s obviously a pretty intense coach and intense person. But I think he means well, and he cares a lot about his players. That’s something I really appreciate.”

Tortorella has expressed his displeasure that the Philadelphia Flyers are lightly regarded by the media around the league.

“I think everyone should kind of be frustrated about that,” Couturier said. “You obviously don’t want to be seen as a bottom team. If we can use that as a little bit of a motivation and kind of prove everyone wrong and become a good team, I think we have the potential to do it. Now it’s up to us to kind of go out there and work and get it done.”

Downplays Captaincy

Tortorella has said he will take a while before naming a new captain. Couturier, who is beginning this 12th season with the Flyers since being drafted No. 8 overall in 2011, is a prime candidate.

“If it happens, it happens,” Couturier said. “But like I’ve said before, it’s not something that’s going to change the person I am or the player I am. I’m still going to lead by example and do all the right things all the time. Whoever is the captain, if we have one, I think everyone just needs to take some responsibility and some leadership in this locker room, and I think everyone has some potential to become good leaders.”

Couturier, 29, was asked if the Flyers, who had just 61 points last season, could become a playoff contender if the players who were injured last season can return healthy.

“I think so,” he said. “If you look at the lineup we had last year at times, we were in games, but we seemed to missing some experience and key guys to close out games, or stay in them tight. If we can all come back healthy and bond together early, buy into the new systems and the new coaches’ philosophy, I think we can surprise a lot of people.”

Most of the Flyers’ veterans have been working at at the teams’ practice rink since Sept. 1, even though the first on-ice session of training camp isn’t until Sept. 22.

“I think everyone is excited to get at it and move on from last year,” Couturier said. “Last year was embarrassing at times. I think guys trained hard this summer, came back in good shape, and are ready to move on. Get a little jump-start here (by) coming in early and bond together and get some good pre-camp practices in and just get going. If we can get a little jump-start here, it’s going to benefit us.”

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