Tortorella honest about Allison; Couturier moves well at practice


When talking about Wade Allison after practice Thursday, John Tortorella mentioned that the winger is "always hurt."

In fact, the head coach said it nine times.

So Tortorella definitely hammered home the point of Allison needing to stay healthy for the Flyers to evaluate his ability to be a part of their future.

"It's hard to be consistent when you're always hurt," Tortorella said. "That's my struggle. You see him coming, you see him coming, now he's out again."

Allison is no longer out. After missing the last three games with an undisclosed injury, he's set to return Friday when the Flyers host the Sabres (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

"I feel good," Allison said Thursday. "I'm ready to play."

Earlier in the season, he was out for five five weeks with an oblique strain and a hip pointer. He missed the final game before the All-Star break because of a lower-body injury.

When healthy, Allison plays a highly effective bottom-six role. The 25-year-old has put up eight goals, five assists and a plus-5 mark in 45 games this season.

"I wanted him more businesslike, how he approaches himself at the rink, understanding what it is to be a pro in this league," Tortorella said. "I think he has done that. I've seen his game improve.

"I'm aggravated that he's always hurt. But I think he has done the things we've asked of him. I've been up and down his back all year long, but he has done the things we have asked of him."

The 2016 second-round draft pick has battled serious injuries going back to his time at Western Michigan. As a result, his NHL career has been limited to 60 games.

In Year 1 of a two-year, $1.57 million deal, Allison is looking to show the Flyers he can be a piece to their rebuild.

"Just do my best," he said of his mindset for the Flyers' final 15 games. "Show up every day and do the best I can. And do it again the next day."

A staple of Allison's game is his all-out, north-south style. He plays with max effort to the whistle. Can he pick and choose his spots to stay healthier more often?

"I think he has learned. I think for him to be an effective player, and he's done this, it's not so much pick your spot, but understand the angling of the game," Tortorella said. "That's a whole different subject we could talk all day long about. It's easy to be that guy running and chasing down a guy, but you don't even get the puck or him — he's by you, you bang the boards.

"I think he's beginning to understand that. I know [assistant coach Rocky Thompson has] done a little work with him, we all have, as far as why we're forechecking, how you forecheck, puck placement, using your body, holding onto pucks. He has shown improvement. But, you know, he's always hurt."

Allison can empathize with a player like Sean Couturier. The 30-year-old center had a second back surgery in late October and hasn't played a game in over a year.

On Thursday, two days after joining the Flyers for their morning skate, Couturier practiced in non-contact fashion. He skated hard and well, getting up and down the ice with good pace. He's hoping to play in at least one game before he heads into his offseason training.

"He looked great today in practice," Allison said. "That was awesome to see. Hopefully he can come back this year and get a few games in and be ready to go for next year. Because he's a major piece to this puzzle."

If all continues to go well, the next step for Couturier would be getting cleared to take contact in practice.

Then talks about a return to game action could take place. The Flyers will be cautious.

"That is the first hurdle he needs to make here is for the medical people to come to me and say, 'He is fully cleared to play an ice hockey game,'" Tortorella said. "That's when Coots and I and probably [interim general manager Danny Briere] will have conversations as far as what we think is the best road to go. Whether it comes to that or not, I don't know. He's under a watchful eye of medical people."

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