Flyers' Claude Giroux OK after being evaluated by team doctors
Andrew MacDonald and Luke Schenn were practicing, having been upgraded to any-day-now status by general manager Ron Hextall.
Even Michael Raffl, originally declared out until sometime around mid-December with a right foot injury, took a quick twirl on the ice for the first time since Nov. 5.
For the first time since before training camp opened in September, the Flyers' long injury list finally appeared to be thinning out yesterday.
That is, until it was time to report for a mandatory team function at the Wells Fargo Center and the night took a strange turn. At 6:10 p.m., the Flyers issued a tweet from their official account saying captain Claude Giroux was unable to participate in a meet-and-greet with season ticketholders because he was "being evaluated by team doctors."
A few hours after making that announcement, the Flyers issued a brief statement from Hextall, who said Giroux "is fine."
In other words: Nothing to see here, move along.
Hextall refused to reveal any further information, such as why Giroux needed to be checked out by the team's medical staff, since it was clearly serious enough for him to miss a planned team activity.
A team spokesman said Giroux would not be one to use an injury as an excuse to skip an event with ticketholders.
Giroux, 26, entered last night tied for fifth in the NHL's scoring race with 21 points in 16 games. He participated in yesterday's otherwise routine practice from start to finish without any apparent ill-effects. After practice, Giroux sat in on two different meetings, including one about the penalty kill.
His status for today's practice is uncertain.
Prior to Giroux's strange twist of events, it was an abnormally positive day for the Flyers. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Raffl — who shuffled out of the lineup as the team's co-leading scorer on Nov. 5 — returning to the ice. He skated for only 10-to-15 minutes on a separate ice surface from the team, but he also wasn't slated to return until sometime before Christmas after a blooped attempt at shot-blocking against Edmonton.
"I've asked every day whether I could skate," Raffl said. "It was nice to get back out there. It's better than riding the hand bike for 40 minutes. It felt better in the skate than I thought it would. I hope I can be back sooner than 6 weeks."
Judging by the way he limped out of the locker room after practice, his return isn't imminent just yet. Hextall said it will be "more than days" and he expects Raffl to start practicing with his teammates again in "a week or so."
Raffl said doctors told him this injury "can't get any worse" and "it's just a matter of how much pain you can take."
Schenn and MacDonald, who have missed a combined 11 games, are significantly closer to playing.
"I guess [tomorrow night's game in New York] is a possibility, but I'm not sure," Hextall said. "They're closing in on the end."
Schenn, who suffered a shoulder injury against Colorado when crashing into the boards from an awkward Nathan MacKinnon hit, wore a gray "non-contact" jersey yesterday. MacDonald, out since Oct. 22 with a right knee injury, sported the same gray socks but wore an orange practice jersey and actually skated with the forwards.
MacDonald showed marked improvement after being held off the ice for nearly 10 days. He first skated with the team on Nov. 6 but "backed off for a few days" after the injury "just started acting up a little bit."
"It's been good," MacDonald said. "We're happy with the progress. Skating and all that went really well. I feel like I'm pretty close to [100 percent]. We'll have to talk to the doctors and the training staff. [Tomorrow] is certainly in my mind — I don't think it's out of the question."
Coach Craig Berube said both Schenn and MacDonald "need practice time" and seemed adamant about not rushing them back into the lineup. When they are ready, Berube will have to make a tough decision on who to scratch, with Carlo Colaiacovo and Nick Schultz as possibilities.
In his Hockey Hall of Fame induction speech last night, Peter Forsberg said: "To the Flyers and Predators, I'm sorry I couldn't do better" ... Despite having Sunday off, forwards Matt Read and Zac Rinaldo both missed practice yesterday with what the team termed as "maintenance days" ... Commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday in Toronto that participation in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang is undecided, but putting a World Cup of Hockey back together with the NHLPA in time for 2016 is a top priority. Rogers Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reported the eight-team World Cup will feature two All-Star teams in addition to the United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and Czech Republic ... Flyers alum Dan Kordic, of the memorable "Dan Line" with Dan Lacroix and Scott Daniels in 1996-97, stopped by practice yesterday with his son on a visit from their home in Edmonton.
Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn, on the fact that him and his younger brother, Brayden, both have 100 career points at the same time. Luke has played in 242 more games in his career.
"It took me, what, more than double the time to get there? Maybe I could get some more power-play time. If he doesn't have a ton more points than me by the end of his career, then I think something's gone wrong."
On Twitter: @frank_seravalli