Couturier healthy for Flyers entering training camp

VOORHEES, NJ — Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes will be full participants for the Philadelphia Flyers when training camp opens Sept. 21.

Couturier, who didn’t play after Dec. 18 last season and had back surgery Feb. 11, said he received final clearance about two weeks ago and has been taking part in informal skating and workout sessions.

“I feel good,” the 29-year-old center said Monday. “I had a long recovery. (It) took longer than I thought, a lot of ups and downs, but now I’m feeling good and ready to go. Excited to get going again.”

Couturier’s absence left a hole at center on the top line last season.

In the 29 games with him, the Flyers were 12-12-5 (.500 points percentage), averaged 2.66 goals per game and allowed 3.17 goals per game. Without him, they were 13-34-6 (.302), averaged 2.51 goals per game and allowed 3.81 goals per game.

“I want to prove that I’m healthy again and I can be back to the player I am, that I was, and maybe even better,” Couturier said. “I’m going to push myself. I think [new coach John Tortorella] is here to kind of do that, push ourselves, make it a tough (training) camp, a lot of skating and see if we’re in shape. So, I’m going to prove myself like everyone else and just try to show that I’m back to who I was.”

Video: [email protected]: Couturier jams home rebound in front

Hayes also wants to contribute after having surgery three times on his abdominal region last season. The 30-year-old center said it was the third procedure Jan. 18, which drained fluid from the adductor region of his hip, that helped cure an infection that had been the root of his issues.

Hayes finished the season with 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 48 games, including a team-leading 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 28 games after returning from that third surgery March 5.

“This was the first summer I’ve had in probably two years where I entered the training part of my summer where I was 100 percent and doing everything and nothing was really holding me back,” Hayes said.

As much as his body feels good, Hayes’ mental approach is better too, because he can trust his body again.

That process started last season and has been reinforced by how he felt on the ice.

“There were times last year where I was leaving games where I was questioning whether I’d ever feel good ever again,” he said. “It was nice to know that I could play hockey again and enjoy myself and not worry about my groins every shift I’m on the ice. So that was the main reason why I came back, and it cleared a lot of mental thoughts up for me, and I’m hoping that it stays that way.”

With a healthy Couturier and Hayes, there is an internal belief that the Flyers could prove the skeptics wrong and return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after failing to qualify in each of the past two seasons.

In addition to the hiring of Tortorella on June 17, Philadelphia acquired defenseman Tony DeAngelo in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on July 8, and signed forward Nicolas Deslauriers (four-year contract) and defenseman Justin Brown (one-year contract) on July 13.

“I think on paper we have a really good team,” Hayes said. “But I think when you have such a bad year like we did last year, it just adds that to it. … I think with ‘Torts’ leading the group, it’s going to be a hard but fun training camp, and I think we’re going to kind of embrace the hard work together and hopefully come together as a team quicker than it would normally take.”

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