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Latest Update on Flyers’ Top Center, Sean Couturier

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Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

Sean Couturier, the Philadelphia Flyers’ top-line center, is working his way toward returning to the lineup.

There’s even a possibility it could be this season, general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a phone interview Saturday.

The Flyers, understandably, are not rushing Couturier, 30, who has had two back surgeries since the last time he played on Dec. 18, 2021.

But he is making strides, has resumed skating, and is working out.

Asked if he expected Couturier to return this season, Fletcher said it “depends on how he progresses. He’s been progressing well. I know the surgeon is happy with the progress he’s made. As you ramp up the intensity of the on- and off-ice workouts, hopefully things continue to go as expected, and in that case, it would be great for him to come back this year and get some games.”

Added Fletcher: “We’ll just have to see if there are things that slow down the recovery or not. That’s hard to predict, but right now he’s doing well. We’re certainly not on a fast-track with him. We do things very methodically. At the end of the day, it’s about the long-term and not this year.”

Given a rehab break

Like all of his teammates except All-Star participant Kevin Hayes, Couturier was given time off during the week break. He will resume skating and working out next week, said Fletcher, whose Philadelphia Flyers are 21-21-9 and six points out of a playoff spot.

“We gave him some days off,” Fletcher said, noting rehabs can be a mental strain. “Let him get away for a few days like all our players and just recharge a bit.”

Couturier won the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the team’s MVP in each of his last three full seasons. Cam Atkinson won the award last year, when Couturier was able to play just 29 games.

In the gym, Couturier has been working to get his range of motion and strength to return, said Fletcher, adding Couturier is not doing any heavy lifting. “When you come off back surgery, you do things a little differently,” Fletcher said. “It’s not like he’s doing any squatting” with the weights. “We’re just making sure the back heals. That’s the most import thing right now.”

Fletcher said “ideally,” it would be great if Couturier could return this season and feel confident his back was ready for the NHL rigors. But the Flyers will be cautious and won’t push him.

The GM pointed out that Couturier hasn’t played in nearly 14 months and is behind the other players in conditioning.¬† “That’s going to probably make the process a little bit longer,” Fletcher said. “His back could be fine, but he’s also behind everybody and has to catch up without overdoing it.”

Carchidi column: Bravo, Flyers

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