VOORHEES, N.J. — Sean Couturier hasn't played in over a year and the Flyers aren't exactly sure when he'll play again.
However, Couturier has taken the ice recently and the Flyers believe his recovery from a second back surgery "has been going really well," general manager Chuck Fletcher said Tuesday.
During late October, Couturier's ailing back required a second procedure in a span of eight and a half months.
The 30-year-old center skated Tuesday morning.
"Shot a lot of pucks," Fletcher said. "He looked pretty good. Off the ice, he's ramping up his rehab."
The Flyers were originally hopeful Couturier could return at some point this season. It's uncertain if that will happen. If anything, it feels unlikely. The Flyers are not contending for the playoffs and will have a future-centric approach over the final 21 games of the season.
Given the problematic nature of Couturier's injury, the Flyers do not want to rush his return to game action whatsoever.
"Is there enough runway for him to play this year? I don't know," Fletcher said. "The back is feeling great. He has missed a lot of time; can we get him into hockey shape with the time remaining? I'm not sure.
"But I think we're pleased with the progress and he's in a pretty good frame of mind. I think he's excited to be out on the ice and doing more. It has been a long, long process for him, so I think it's more enjoyable right now and he's feeling pretty good."
While there may seem like no point in Couturier playing this season, Kevin Hayes found real value in returning from injury last season during March of a completely lost year for the club. It helped him shake off rust and build reassurance that his body can feel well while playing.
If Couturier doesn't play this season, are the Flyers confident he can make an impact next season?
"Well, I think we're really hopeful he'll be able to come back and play," Fletcher said. "I think we've seen through this there are a lot of things you can't control. But I think the medical people are confident we can get him healthy. And then, after missing the time that he has missed, I'm sure there will be a little bit of an adjustment.
"But he's a smart player and a competitive player and certainly a guy that we really hope can get back to where he was."
Couturier last played in December 2021 before the back issue took him out of the Flyers' lineup. He underwent his first surgery last February, which knocked him out for the rest of the 2021-22 season.
He seemed poised for a full return to start this season but then felt concerning pain in his back just a handful of days before training camp. Eventually, it resulted in a second surgery.
The Flyers, who enter March at 23-28-10, have missed Couturier and Cam Atkinson (neck) for the entire season. Now, they're also missing leading scorer Travis Konecny, who will be "out for a while" after missing the last three games because of an upper-body injury.
At this point, the Flyers will definitely be patient with his recovery. Could he be done for the rest of the season?
"I don't think so at this point. He may be," Fletcher said. "I know he'll be in contact with the doctors here over the next two to three weeks. He was on the bike today, he feels pretty good. I think he's hopeful he can come back, but whether or not that's realistic, we'll see."
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