Sean Couturier's back injury takes him off the ice; Flyers' center 'a ways away'

Couturier no longer skating, returning to the ice 'a ways away' originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

VOORHEES, N.J. — Sean Couturier's on-ice rehab work has come to a halt.

The Flyers' first-line center had been skating this month in his recovery from a back reinjury. But with a back issue, especially following a reinjury, it's such a wait-and-see approach every day.

"Pretty much," Couturier said Oct. 9. "At the same time, I really want to just get out there and rip some pucks and go 100 miles per hour, but the trainers are really kind of holding me back, just really trying to slowly progress me where I don't have any setbacks."

Couturier has endured a setback given he's no longer on the ice.

"He stopped skating," Flyers head coach John Tortorella said Thursday during the team's optional morning skate. "He's just not ready to skate right now. That's a ways, that's a ways away."

Last season, Couturier underwent back surgery in February, which knocked him out for the rest of the year. The 29-year-old seemed poised for a full return to start the 2022-23 season but then felt concerning pain in his back just a handful of days before training camp.

The reinjury did not require surgery and Couturier had been skating in his rehab. On Oct. 12, Chuck Fletcher noted Couturier was feeling "the best he's felt since pre-surgery last year."

"We're cautiously optimistic and hopefully he'll continue to progress," the Flyers' general manager said.

The setback is tough news for Couturier and the Flyers. Up front, the Flyers are also without Cam Atkinson (upper body), James van Riemsdyk (broken finger) and Patrick Brown (back).

Like Couturier, Atkinson has yet to play this season and is not skating. He practiced in limited fashion a day before the regular-season opener Oct. 13.

"I'm not thinking about them right now as far as lineups in the near future here," Tortorella said of Couturier and Atkinson. "So we've just got to wait and see what happens."

Tortorella had expressed optimism about Atkinson's status for the season opener in the days leading up to it.

"Things changed and it just went the other way," he said Thursday. "That's one frustrated young man right there. He wants to be a big part of this.

"His body's just not allowing him to get to the spot where he can start conditioning again and start getting ready to play. I'm hoping that could change as quickly as it went the wrong way."

On Thursday, the head coach could only sympathize with his injured players.

"Coots has been battling, trying to get back, and then he was healthy, and now he isn't," Tortorella said. "The ups and downs you go through as an athlete just to play, it's hard.

"Same thing with Ryan Ellis, I feel bad for Ryan, I feel bad for all of them because they kind of hang around.

"The greatest thing about sports is the camaraderie — being in the locker room, joking around, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, all the s--- you go through together as a group. You just don't feel a part of it when you're not putting a uniform on with them."

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