NHL Notebook: Flyers Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson motivated by doubters, and Flames defenceman Nikita Zadorov speaks out against war in Ukraine

Photo credit:Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire
Aleena Aksenchuk
6 months ago
As the curtains lifted on the Philadelphia Flyers training camp, Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson stepped onto the ice for the first time, confirming that they’ll be healthy for the start of the 2023-24 season.
While the return of the two seasoned forwards brings a breath of fresh air to the organization, there are still some doubts in Philly regarding the upcoming campaign and whether or not the pair will return as the same players. However, Couturier and Atkinson share the unwavering mindset that the doubters will fuel their journey back to peak performance.
“They have their reasons to question or doubt, but I know what I’m capable of, the kind of person I am, and the character that I have,” asserted Couturier on Thursday, following the first day of training camp.
“Not only to them but to myself. I want to prove that I’m able to be the player I was, if not better, so that’s always a little extra motivation when you hear some doubters.”
Couturier, the 2019-20 Selke Trophy winner, last appeared for the Flyers back on December 21st, 2021. Over the course of a year, he underwent two crucial back surgeries to repair an ongoing issue that left him in pain and unable to compete to his usual standards. The initial procedure took place in February 2022 while the second operation came in October of 2022 after he suffered reoccurring symptoms. Feeling hopeful to return for the final games of the 2022-23 campaign, general manager Daniel Briere and head coach John Tortorella opted to shelve the idea so Couturier could focus on his recovery.
In a similar vein, Atkinson’s health was marked by its own set of challenges. The forward battled with neck and back complications at the onset of the 2022-23 season which resulted in him undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck just days before Christmas in December of 2022.
“My whole life, I’ve had to prove people wrong, and I’ve used that to fuel my fire, to shove it in your face,” stated Atkinson.
“I’ve got to prove it to myself even more so this year, and that’s why I think I prepared better than I ever have this offseason.”
Only time will reveal if both players’ health is where they need it to be, but at this stage, it’s all a matter of getting on the ice and playing the game. Tortorella was asked how the team plans to manage the workload for the pair moving forward, but in traditional Tortorella fashion, he expressed they weren’t going to overthink it.
“They put in a lot of work prior to us just starting, so they’re ready to go. They’re gonna go to business just like everyone else does. We’re not gonna overthink that.”
The return of Atkinson and Couturier adds a significant boost to the team’s vision of ushering in a new era as their resurgence should assist in the team finding stability. Not to mention, these two veterans would be a critical component in aiding the club’s goals of developing younger players such as Owen Tippett, Noah Cates, and Morgan Frost, all of whom played substantial roles in matchups against top-line players last year.

Flames Russian defenceman Nikita Zadorov speaks out against war in Ukraine

Calgary Flames blueliner, Nikita Zadorov, has spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while also admitting that he and other Russian players cannot come to a unified stance on the matter.
“I think it’s important for me to speak personally,” Zadorov said on Friday in Calgary. “I think hopefully I can change something in this world.
In a recent interview with Russian journalist Yury Dud, Zadorov, who has not previously addressed the invasion, was very outspoken in his opposition to what is happening in Ukraine. He acknowledged his absence from Russia and noted that he will likely not return if Putin remains in office. It is also worth noting that his parents, who reside in Russia, do not share the same views as their son.
Zadorob shared that he and other Russian players took part in a digital discussion initiated by Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky after Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, but that the participants couldn’t agree on a united message. He opted to not disclose the names of the other players in the chat, but shared, “There’s a lot of young kids thinking the way I think. They just don’t have a voice to speak out like this, but now, hopefully, they can feel the support from me.”
On February 25th, 2022, Zadorov posted the message to his Instagram profile: “No War.” Born in Moscow, the 28-year-old defender has previously represented Russia internationally, but currently resides in Miami, Florida, with his wife during the off-season, which was where the interview was conducted.
Since then, he has received an outpouring of reactions to his comments from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Sweden, all of which have been positive. That said, Zadorov is fully aware of the potential backlash he may face for speaking out.
“People have been showing great support. On my Instagram, 99.99 per cent of the messages are positive. I know Russia has a bot system and it takes them two, three days to send negative reviews, so I’m expecting some of them to come to my page too.”
Zadorov doesn’t want to continue to discuss the invasion further beyond his initial statements from this past week, but he remains hopeful for change and that his words will create a positive impact in the future.

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