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Sean Couturier looking more “comfortable” following lengthy Flyers absence

Cover Photo Credit: Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA — If you ask any professional athlete, missing one full season due to injury is hard to bounce-back from. Add in half of a second campaign and that frustration and worry will only continue to rise. Flyers center Sean Couturier however had missed ample time over each of the past two seasons following two separate back surgeries but has since rebounded in a major way for the Orange and Black.

Couturier is coming off his best performance yet of the 2023-24 NHL season, registering two assists in the Flyers impressive 4-1 home victory over the Edmonton Oilers. In addition to getting on the stat-sheet, Couturier also helped lead a strong defensive performance against two of the NHL’s best players, forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

McDavid did register one assist but was held without a single shot on goal. Draisaitl totaled two shots on goaltender Carter Hart but did not get on the score sheet.

Couturier’s continued production on the defensive end of the ice was on display at the Wells Fargo Center and was just the latest example of him getting back to his best for the Flyers.

“He played every shift against him except one, and they scored,” Flyers head coach John Tortorella said postgame to media. “[He] Played every shift. And if I didn’t give him the shift, he’s probably looking over his shoulder at me, wanting to get back out there.”

“He’s coming. It just looks like he’s feeling more and more comfortable,” Tortorella added.

Couturier’s key defensive play helped boost momentum on the Flyers side heading into the second intermission. With the Oilers down 2-1 and knocking on the door, Couturier blocked McDavid’s pass on a power play before passing to Joel Farabee, who subsequently found Walker down the left wing.

Walker powered a wrist shot past Jack Campbell, extending the Flyers lead to 3-1 and ultimately giving them enough to ride to victory. It was a game-changer for the Flyers, a back-breaker for the Oilers, and a key moment for Couturier.

“I was just coming back in the middle, trying to have an active stick. Maybe caught [McDavid] a little off guard,” Couturier said humbly. “Saw Walks [Walker] taking off, just made a patient play. He did a heck of a shot there.”

“I think a lot of the things go unnoticed that he does, but the d-zone’s been spectacular,” Walker praised about Couturier postgame. “The way he can break up plays, calm things down for us.”

Couturier, a former Selke Award winner, now has four points (one goal, three assists) through four games this season. He’s averaging 20:44 minutes of ice time per night, which would be his largest workload since the 2018-19 season.

It’s still early in the regular season schedule but having Couturier back at 100% could be crucial for the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division. His offensive production and awareness paired with his gritty defensive presence are both important to how the Flyers want to play under Tortorella.

Couturier and the Flyers will now prepare for back-to-back road games against Dallas and Las Vegas, two new challenges for the veteran forward to prepare for. However, if he plays like he did on Thursday night, expect a lot of success for the Orange and Black this year.

“I played a lot of years against him, so it’s nice to finally be on his side, see that he’s healthy and playing with him five-on-five, power play, PK,” Flyers forward Cam Atkinson said.

“I think everybody’s been super impressed with him, the way he’s come back and battled over those last two years,” defenseman Sean Walker added. “He’s a huge addition, obviously, and the guys love having him around.”

You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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