Back surgery may have ended Sean Couturier’s playing time for the second half of the Flyers season but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute in other ways.
The 29-year-old center, who’s been sidelined since December and officially out since the operation on Feb. 11, has been offering a veteran presence during on-ice practice sessions as the Philadelphia season grinds into its final week.
In fact, interim head coach Mike Yeo gives the impression Couturier is acting as almost another assistant coach during workouts on Saturday at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, New Jersey.
It’s tough to keep Couturier from doing a full practice because he’s such a competitor.
“Coots is out there just supposed to be doing a couple flow drills,’’ Yeo said. “The next thing you know he wants to kill penalties and play as a defenseman.’’
Couturier has been making some road trips and just having him around has to be a positive influence.
“I saw him in Montreal (on Thursday),’’ Yeo said with a grin. “I kind of asked him why he’s not playing now, he looks so good. Obviously he’s a player who is so smart. Even though we’re not entertaining the notion of playing him, I’m sure he could step in right now without any practices and be effective just because the way he thinks the game. It was good having him around on the road trip.’’
Young players can learn a lot just being around Couturier. With Claude Giroux traded last month, one would have to think Couturier be a favorite to be named captain of the team next season.
“He’s a big leader for our team,’’ Yeo said. “A great presence in the locker room, a big role model, not just for all the young guys we have but I know that even some of the players who have been around have conversations like ‘what do you see up top in my game?’ and sort of things. It’s great to have him around.’’
>Montreal win helpful
Rookie Bobby Brink had two assists in the 6-3 win at Montreal and it was the first game Brink came away a winner.
Yeo was asked if a win like that can help show young players the rights and wrongs of the pro game.
“It reinforces the things that you’re trying to get them to understand about the pro game at the NHL level,’’ Yeo said. “I think it’s real good for their confidence. These guys want to have (individual) success but they want to contribute to the team. For all those guys, they don’t want to just play, they want to win, not just at the college level but the NHL level.’’
>Attard getting comfortable
Rookie defenseman Ronnie Attard has been playing with and learning from veteran Keith Yandle. It’s been a good experience and should he productive heading into next season.
“I’ve learned a lot here in the past couple weeks,’’ he said. “Playing with a player like that just continues to help me grow my game. He’s been very helpful so it’s a great opportunity for me.’’
Attard was stuck with a rather humbling minus-5 in a game at Washington a couple weeks ago but has been steadily improving since then, including a plus number in Montreal.
“I’m starting to feel a little bit better each game,’’ he said. “I have to continue to grow so I’m ready for next season. You can’t dwell on anything, if something bad happens. You can’t get too high, can’t get too low.’’
Yeo disclosed most of the players on the current injury list are unlikely to see action in the final four games, beginning with the home game against Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.
The coach left the door open for Nick Seeler (lower-body injury) as a possibility but it looks like Cam Atkinson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam York, Patrick Brown and goaltender Carter Hart will be starting their summer early.