Each day leading up to Sept. 14, the official start of Flyers training camp, we'll dissect the biggest storylines facing the team ahead of the 2018-19 season.
When the news trickled down late last month that Sean Couturier returned to Philadelphia after suffering a knee injury at a charity event, there was a collective gasp of concern.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall quickly calmed the storm. Couturier would miss four weeks and he did not reinjure the torn MCL he played through in Game 6 against Pittsburgh.
But Couturier was going to miss some of training camp and preseason. There was good news Monday, before the Flyers’ prospects and rookies took the ice on Day 1 of rookie camp.
Couturier, 25, was on the ice at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, firing one-timers, which is an obvious positive sign that he will be ready for the Oct. 4 opener.
Hextall said Couturier remains on the same four-week timeline and that he will play in the tail end of the Flyers’ preseason schedule. Monday was his first day on the ice, Couturier said.
“They don’t want me to push it too much,” Couturier said. “But, naturally, you kind of do push it because it’s the way I feel, and I felt good. Hopefully, [Tuesday] it responds well.”
Couturier said he will likely be skating on his own for another week or two and then go from there. He’s wearing a knee brace, which he said he’s using during this time period to get used to it.
The Flyers do not have a policy against players participating in charity events during the offseason, which is how Couturier suffered the knee injury.
On Monday, Couturier offered some insight on the charity event he hurt his knee at, which he called a "high-level tournament."
"Basically all the guys from Quebec meet up and play games all weekend to see where we're at in our summer training," Couturier said. "To see where we're at and push each other.
"They raise money for charity doing that, so it's part of the training. You're cautious but at the same time, not just going to sit back on my couch all summer and show up to camp."
With Couturier on schedule to return by the end of the preseason slate, there isn't much cause for concern. That said, how his knee holds up is worth watching.
Factor in that Couturier is coming off a torn MCL and that he suffered a non-contact injury to the same knee a few months later, there is some reason to be concerned.
"With the years, you learn yourself, learn your body," Couturier said. "It's a freak accident that happened. We have time to rest it, recuperate it and heal it, so we'll take the time.
"It's not like in-season where you're kind of rushing back to help the team. Now we have the time that we need to heal it and we'll take it."
Couturier enters the 2018-19 season as the Flyers' No. 1 center for the second straight campaign. Except this time, there are no questions about his production.
Playing with Claude Giroux and either Jakub Voracek or Travis Konecny last season, Couturier posted career highs across the board: 31 goals, 45 assists and 76 points.
There is a possibility that Couturier and Giroux are broken up this season as the Flyers have a vacancy at third-line center and Hextall opened the door for Giroux to return to center.
During the early portion of preseason, we'll likely see Giroux play a bit of center with Couturier out. And if Giroux does move back to center, it's not like Couturier moves to the third line.
Couturier will continue to have a prominent role in 2018-19, either as the top-line center or second-line center. He also found success on the power play last season.
The best-case scenario for the Flyers would be reuniting the top line of Couturier, Giroux and Konecny (see story).
There is no reason to believe, though, that last season was an outlier for Couturier. He finally discovered his offensive game and now he's entering the prime of his career.
And the Flyers have him signed through 2021-22 at a $4.33 million cap hit. Health withstanding, that's a pretty damn good deal.
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