Sean Couturier, the Philadelphia Flyers’ top-line center, is getting antsy.
Not playing for 16 months will do that to a player.
“He’s out of his mind,” Flyers coach John Tortorella said about Couturier missing the game action. “For me, it’s not that important he plays games (this season). But I’m not him. For his sanity, and for him to feel part of it before he leaves, we have to consider it if it comes down to that.”
Couturier, 30, took part in the Flyers’ morning skate Tuesday for the first time since he had two back surgeries. His plan, he said, is to play in a handful of games at the end of this season, which has nearly a month remaining.
He said he hoped to “get a couple games in” before the season ends April 13 in Chicago.
“I’m just happy to have some time with my teammates,” he said after the morning skate. “It’s been going really well. It’s been a couple weeks of working out, skating, progressing well.”
After Tuesday’s contest with visiting Vegas, the Flyers have 15 games remaining.
Nearing 100 percent
Couturier said he hopefully will get to 100 percent “real soon” and the “goal ever since I got surgery was to come back at some point this year. So it’s something I’ve kind of had my mind on.”
He said he hoped to participate in a full practice later this week and “go from there.”
Tortorella said he would like Couturier to start fresh and resume playing at the start of the 2023-24 season, “but I have to listen to the player” before deciding.
Couturier, a former Selke Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defensive forward, said it’s “day and night” as to how he feels now compared to before his second surgery.
“There was always something nagging me,” he said. ” … Always feeling a little uncomfortable.”
That feeling, he said, has gone.
“I’m able to work out normally without any of those thoughts in the back of my mind,” he said.
A lot has changed since Couturier last played. The Flyers will miss the playoffs for the third straight season, and interim general manager Danny Briere says a rebuild is in the works.
Couturier is in the first year of an eight-year, $62 million contract extension that has an annual cap hit of $7.75 million. The contract has a no-movement clause.
“It’s definitely not a situation I was envisioning when I signed, but here we are,” Couturier said. “That’s the business of the NHL. Things can go one way or the other pretty quick in this league. Being part of a rebuild is not what you want, but I think it’s the right thing to do in the situation we’re at.
“I’ll do my best to to be around and lead the right way and get this team back on track as quick as possible.”
Couturier said he felt “really bad” for fired general manager Chuck Fletcher. He called him a “great man” and said he had a “great hockey mind.”
The center was also the latest to support Briere, hoping he becomes the Philadelphia Flyers’ full-time general manager. Earlier in his career, Couturier lived with Briere and his children at their Haddonfield home.
Couturier said Briere is “kind of like a father” figure to him, and has paid his dues to get to his current position. “I think he deserves a chance to get this team back on track,” Couturier said.