The big story this morning, though, was the status of Claude Giroux, the NHL’s leading scorer. The 23-year-old center left Saturday’s game after getting kneed in the head during a collision with teammate Wayne Simmonds and has not skated since.
Although there was initially a hopeful vibe surrounding Giroux’s condition, that went away following today’s announcement.
“Claude reported not feeling very good today,” Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said in a statement. “Over the past few days, his symptoms have gradually gotten worse. He will be out indefinitely with a concussion.”
Giroux has 16 goals and 23 assists and is a big reason the Flyers lead the NHL in goals per game (3.61) and sit atop the Eastern Conference standings.
The 23-year-old, who did not travel to Washington, becomes the third Flyer sidelined with a concussion, joining No. 1 defenseman Chris Pronger and third-line center Brayden Schenn.
So far, the Flyers have managed to thrive despite being without key players. But it’s impossible not wonder after this news just how much longer they’ll avoid a dropoff.
Players learned about Giroux’s downgrade in status from reporters as they came off the ice.
“I didn’t know that,” veteran Jody Shelley said. “All teams wonder, what happens when you’re down? What happens when things are bad? What happens when guys are missing?”
“We haven’t spent any time thinking about it, as far as Pronger and now ‘G’,” Shelley added. “That just attests to our system and our young energy, I guess. It’s almost an ignorance to even spend time looking about that. We just stay focused: We’re in Washington with a game.”
With Giroux out, rookie pivot Sean Couturier is expected to remain on the top line in between Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr. Philly’s second forward combo should be Harry Zolnierczyk, Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds, while the third figures to be James van Riemsdyk, Maxime Talbot and Jakub Voracek.
“The guys have responded well to everything, whether it’s been schedule or injury or youth or change or whatever it might be,” Coach Peter Laviolette said. “The guys we’ve put into the lineup have gone out and played hard every night. We haven’t won every game, but certainly there’s been a consistent effort with the way we’ve played the game, and I would expect no different today.”
Tonight’s game marks the second of four meetings between the rivals. The Caps prevailed in Philly on Oct. 20 after blitzing the Flyers with three goals in a span of 2:25 in the third period en route to a 5-2 win, their sixth straight to open the season.
How long ago that seems. For Washington, at least.
Laviolette said the Flyers are prepared to face a more conservative Caps team under Dale Hunter.
“The team is the same; a lot of the personnel is the same,” Laviolette said. “A little bit of a different style on the forecheck and in the neutral zone.”
“We always give the players information on the opponent,” Laviolette added after a pause. “But we don’t focus on it. We focus on what we do. How we need to play. Hockey for me is a sport that’s more [about] how your team does in making minor adjustments to the opposition as opposed to focusing on the opposition.”