Left winger Claude Giroux, returning from a battle with the coronavirus, is expected to be back in the lineup Wednesday when the Flyers face the New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers’ captain missed two games while on the COVID-19 protocol list since Feb. 9. The Flyers had four games postponed during that span.
Giroux, 33, was at practice Tuesday in Voorhees and on a new-look line that was centered by Kevin Hayes and had the struggling Nolan Patrick, a natural center, on right wing. Giroux was also on the second power-play unit.
“No doubt, having our captain back with our group is important for us and will be beneficial,” coach Alain Vigneault said after practice.
Giroux will skate Wednesday morning. “We’ll talk afterward and see how he feels,” and determine whether he plays at night, said Vigneault, who sounded optimistic.
Giroux, who was quarantined and away from his family for 13 days, said he felt great Tuesday and strong enough to play Wednesday, adding that the coronavirus hit him hard at the beginning but that he was fine a few days later.
“Practice today was good; it was a good pace. To get back on the ice was fun,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been with my teammates. Today felt like the first day of camp. Today was a good day.”
Vigneault said Giroux “had a lot of pop” and “hopefully he can play [Wednesday].”
In 13 games, Giroux is fourth on the Flyers with 11 points.
He had his streak of playing in 328 consecutive games stopped while he was in quarantine. The Flyers were 0-1-1 with Giroux sidelined.
“Watching the guys play was tough. It wasn’t fun. You want to be out there and help the team,” he said. “It’s good to be back now.”
As for putting Patrick at right wing, Vigneault said he “wanted to help him get going,” and the coach believes he can benefit with Hayes as his center.
Tuesday’s practice lineup looked like this:
Sean Couturier centering James van Riemsdyk and Joel Farabee.
Hayes centering Giroux and Patrick.
Connor Bunnaman centering Michael Raffl and Nic Aube-Kubel.
Andy Andreoff centering Carsen Twarynski and Maksim Sushsko.
Shayne Gostisbehere replaced Phil Myers on the top defensive pairing, alongside Ivan Provorov. Myers was dropped to the second pairing and partnered with Travis Sanheim, while Robert Hagg and Erik Gustafsson composed the third pairing.
Brian Elliott (2.25 GAA, .928 save percentage) will start Wednesday if healthy, Vigneault said, adding that the goaltender had a minor injury “a while back and I just want to make sure he’s good to go. He seemed fine in practice.”
Carter Hart (3.68, .891) shelled for six goals in Sunday’s loss to Boston, watched video Tuesday with goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh.
“Carter’s a young goaltender and every game he plays, it’s experience for him and it’s only going to get his game better and get our team better,” Vigneault said.
After Wednesday, the Flyers will play four games in six nights, and the 56-game schedule is condensed the rest of the season.
“So we’re going to be playing a lot of hockey and we have two good goaltenders that I’m going to use,” Vigneault said. “The next time I use Carter, I’m sure he’s going to be very good for us.”