Turns out, Sean Couturier will not be exiting the NHL's COVID protocol to join the Flyers on their West Coast road trip.
Instead, the first-line center was placed on injured reserve and is considered week to week because of an upper-body issue.
Couturier missed practice on Dec. 20 for a maintenance day. The next day, he entered COVID protocol while the Flyers' holiday break started early with a postponement of the team's game against the Capitals. Couturier was appearing ready to return from COVID protocol, but evidently he was also dealing with an injury that needs recovery time.
"Sean's been battling with various upper- and lower-body issues all year," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Dec. 20. "Give him credit, he's a warrior, he keeps playing hard."
The specifics of Couturier's injury are unknown. The 29-year-old center had not looked quite like himself for a little while now. However, a banged-up Couturier is still a valuable player. He has 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) and a minus-6 rating in 29 games this season. His importance to the Flyers is well-known. Couturier plays big minutes in all situations and has won the Bobby Clarke Trophy (team MVP) the last three seasons.
"When we're down a goal, we play him. When we're up a goal, we play him. He's a rare talent," Fletcher said this summer after inking Couturier to a contract extension. "You just can't find these players."
The Flyers suffered a 3-2 overtime loss Thursday night to the Sharks in the second game of their four-game road swing. The club has some flexibility at center with Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton and Derick Brassard, all of whom can play down the middle. Giroux is currently back at center and the Flyers could be getting Laughton and Brassard back from COVID protocol at some point over the final two games of this trip.
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