Sean Couturier is expected to be out 3-4 months for the Philadelphia Flyers after undergoing revision back surgery on Thursday.
This is the second back surgery in less than a year for the 29-year-old centre, who had already undergone season-ending surgery on February 11.
“They went to the same area and had to do other repairs,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “With Sean, it’s been a long road, even going all the way back to June and July. … He was feeling the twinges, he was getting some nerve irritation from time to time. He was told to keep training, and he felt better as the summer went along, then before [training] the camp symptoms seemed to get a little worse, so we removed it, and at that point we tried to treat it non-surgically. He had an epidural which gave him relief for a few weeks. He felt great, truly the best he had felt in a long time, then it seemed to fade and the symptoms returned.
“So it’s been like four or five months of this persistent nerve irritation and symptoms. After speaking with a few different specialists, it was decided to come back and fix it.”
Couturier said he was cleared in early September to fully participate in training camp, which began on September 21, although he never took part in any practice. He had skated alone periodically, but coach John Tortorella said Thursday that Couturier suffered a setback.
“He stopped skating,” Tortorella said. “He’s just not ready to skate right now. It’s way off.”
Fletcher said he believes Couturier can play again this season.
“I think there’s finally a bit more clarity, and hopefully Sean will be relieved to feel better, and ultimately we still hope he comes back to play,” Fletcher said.
Couturier, who hasn’t played a game since Dec. 18, 2021, is in the first season of an eight-year, $62 million contract (average annual value of $7.75 million) that he signed. signed on August 26, 2021.
Selected by the Flyers in the first round (No. 8) of the 2011 NHL Draft, Couturier amassed 460 points (180 goals, 280 assists) in 721 games and won the Selke Trophy awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward in 2019 -2020 . When healthy, he was the Flyers’ No. 1 center, played in the top power-play unit, and is the team’s top penalty killer.
Fletcher said he will continue to evaluate any roster changes, but understands the difficulty of replacing what Couturier brings.
“Right now, we’re still building,” Fletcher said. “As John has talked about a lot, we’ve brought in a lot of young players and new players and we’ve got new systems, new coaches. So I think right now we’ll probably just let things play out, see how we do.It’s not easy to replace Sean Couturier, and again the hope is that in 3-4 months he will be back. So we’ll just have to take game by game and week by week, all the old clichés, but we’ll see how that plays out.”
Forward James van Riemsdyk is expected to miss six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a broken left index finger on Friday. He was injured blocking a shot in the first period of Philadelphia’s 3-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
Van Riemsdyk has five points (two goals, three assists) in six games this season.
Fletcher also said there was no update on the front Cam Atkinson, who hasn’t played this season due to an upper-body injury. Atkinson finished second on the Flyers with 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists) in 73 games last season.
“It’s more weekly at this point than daily,” Fletcher said. “He’s made progress and it’s frustrating for him. No one wants to play more than Cam. We’ll just see how things progress.”