Flyers' World Cup players 'almost in midseason form'

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Sean Couturier (14) of Team North America tries to get around Rasmus Ristolainen of Team Finland during the World Cup of Hockey on Sept. 18, 2016 in Toronto.

Having spent a good portion of the month preparing for and playing in the World Cup of Hockey, four key Flyers have joined the team's training camp in Voorhees and are more advanced than their teammates.

"I feel almost in midseason form," center Sean Couturier said Tuesday before practice. "We were there for three weeks of pretty intense [play] and six games. Three games in four nights in the tournament, so it was a pretty busy schedule, and the level of hockey was pretty impressive for September."

Couturier and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, each of whom played for North America's exciting 23-and-under team, and the Czech Republic's Jake Voracek and Michal Neuvirth were at camp Tuesday.

"I felt like I was playing the playoffs in September," said Voracek, a speedy right winger. "Even the exhibition games we played before the World Cup were such high-tempo games. It was comparable to our playoff games."

"It was a good experience," said Neuvirth, who is battling Steve Mason for the No. 1 goalie job. "I got to play 21/2 games for my country and that was always my dream, and now that I'm back here I'm ready to go."

Three other Flyers - Claude Giroux of Canada and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Mark Streit of Europe - are in the World Cup finals.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said he wanted to give his World Cup participants more time off, but they declined and started filtering into the practice rink earlier in the week.

"You don't want to lose that edge," said Voracek, who, like the other World Cup returnees, is not expected to play in an exhibition game until Saturday night against visiting Boston. "If I take more than three or four days off, I'll put on about six pounds and I can't afford that."

The Flyers have gotten off to slow starts in the last three seasons. The World Cup participants, they hope, will help them get off to a better start when the season opens Oct. 14 in Los Angeles, beginning a three-game road trip that includes stops in Arizona and Chicago.

"I think it'll be a good stepping-stone to the season," Gostisbehere said.

"Everybody's mind-set is for Oct. 14," Voracek said.

Voracek, who lost 11 pounds over the summer, is trying to rebound from an 11-goal season, one in which he managed just one power-play score. He didn't score a goal in his first 16 games.

"When I look at last season, the [first] 20 games were brutal, then I started picking up the pace and I was feeling actually the best I felt, and then I got hurt and didn't know how to react," he said. "It is what it is. People get hurt."

He missed nine games because of an injured left foot.

"I know when I'm ready and healthy, I can do good things," said Voracek, 27, who had a career-best 81 points the previous season and then signed an eight-year, $66 million contract extension. "For me, the way I played in the World Cup, I know I have my jump back. That's really important for me. When I played those games, I felt quick and there's no reason for me to have the start like I had last year."

scarchidi@phillynews.com

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