Two of the Flyers’ highest impact players have been sidelined for a considerable amount of time – one got good news on Saturday while the update about another wasn’t quite so cheery.
Travis Konecny, the team’s leading scorer, was given the green light to play in Saturday night’s home game against Buffalo after missing 16 games, dating back to Feb. 11, due to an upper-body injury.
Sean Couturier has been out of action all season due to offseason revision back surgery. He was hoping to get back into a handful of games before the campaign ended.
However, after consulting with their medical staff, the Flyers decided to shut down Couturier for the remainder of the season (eight games).
After Saturday morning’s pre-game skate at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J., coach John Tortorella said it’s good to have Konecny back but that he also feels badly for Couturier, who appears healthy enough to play and was anxious to see some competition before the long offseason begins.
“The medical people, (interim GM) Danny (Briere) and I met probably a week and a half ago,” Tortorella explained. “The decision has been made through that group that he’s not going to play this year.
“No setback at all. In fact, ‘Coots’ put his (rehab) time in here. This is what I respect about Coots: He’s stubborn. But I think it’s the right type of stubborn. I think that’s why he’s the player he is. He has some old school in him. But I have to give him credit, I want athletes that way.”
Then Tortorella took what sounded like a subtle shot at some of his other players.
“One of the problems going on in our group, we don’t have enough athletes like that, who simply want to play,” the coach said. “This (Couturier) was serious, where there were two operations. So I really respect the way he’s handled himself.
“Sometimes we simply have to make a decision and we think this is the right one.”
Tortorella said it probably wouldn’t be wise to throw Couturier into a time of the season when things are going at high speed and he hasn’t played in the better part of two seasons.
“The doctors cleared him, everything is good to go,” Tortorella said. “I’m worried about another injury. He’s just not up to speed of the game. He could hurt a shoulder, a knee because he’s just not ready to play at this speed. That’s always been my concern.
“I think we handled it the right way. Coots is aggravated, and I love it. Because that’s why I think he’s the player he is. So he’s going to have to eat it a little bit and I think that’s going to get him even more ready for a pretty strenuous camp.”
Couturier did want to get into a few games just from a confidence standpoint. But health comes first.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” Couturier said. “I’ve been working hard all year to put myself in a situation that I would play again. I almost feel like I let down the team. It is what it is, a team decision.
“I understand where they’re coming from. I just feel like I’m at the same risk as I would be next year. It’s just hard seeing guys getting banged up at the of the year, playing through nagging injuries – I’m a hundred percent and I have to watch from up top.”
As for Konecny, he’s been out for nearly two months but has been practicing for a couple weeks and should have no trouble handling the speed of the game.
Konecny, who was injured in a game against Calgary, has sounded a bit frustrated by his long recovery as well.
He had already set a career-high with 27 goals when the injury took place and a 40-goal season wasn’t out of the question. But at least he will see some action before the offseason begins after the final game on April 13 in Chicago.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Tortorella said. “It’s not crucial that he’s in every spot. But we also want to be fair to him, too. He’s worked hard to get back in. We’ll see how he plays and how he feels as we go through it.”
Konecny would like to get his groove back in order before the schedule runs out.
“The nature of an athlete is just try to get back here,” he said. “I miss being around the guys, miss competing, whether it was one game or 20 games I was going to try to get back.”
The Flyers’ offense has been clicking on all cylinders of late and it should be fun rejoining that mix.
“The guys have been playing well,” Konecny agreed. “Honestly, for me, just trying to come back. There haven’t been many practices so I’m just going to try to feel my way through. Do whatever I can do to help the team.”
Goalie Felix Sandstrom was scheduled to make his third straight start as Carter Hart remains sidelined with a lower-body injury. . .With Konecny returning to the lineup, the Flyers were set to go with seven defensemen and make Kieffer Bellows and Tanner Laczynski healthy scratches. . .Tortorella said the Flyers have decided not to make Couturier available for play in the upcoming World Championships (May, Finland/Latvia).