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Rookie Claude Giroux to start season with Phantoms

Claude Giroux came into camp hoping to make the Flyers for the start of the regular season. That isn't going to happen. The 20-year-old rookie was assigned to the Phantoms yesterday along with five other players as the Flyers near the end of the preseason and prepare for the real thing.

Claude Giroux came into camp hoping to make the Flyers for the start of the regular season.

That isn't going to happen. The 20-year-old rookie was assigned to the Phantoms yesterday along with five other players as the Flyers near the end of the preseason and prepare for the real thing.

According to coach John Stevens, it wasn't that Giroux was a disappointment or can't play in the league. It's just that he's not a fourth-line guy, and if he can't crack the top three lines then he won't get enough ice time to develop.

"I see Claude as a top nine forward," Stevens said. "We're extremely happy with the way our top nine are falling into place right now.

"He's a young kid and he needs to play a lot. He needs to go down there and he needs to play a lot and develop. He's not going to do that if he's going to be in and out of the lineup or play on the fourth line and play a small amount of minutes every night.

"It's just part of the development process. He's got a boatload of talent and ability and he needs to play."

The move does not come as a surprise. Stevens said Tuesday that he believed Giroux was doing "just OK." Giroux also knew that making the team would be tough because of the depth at forward.

"I think there are a lot of good players on this team," Giroux said. "The lineup is unreal. They have a lot of young, good players, and if I want to make the team I've really got to prove myself.

"I'm not the one that controls [where he plays]. So I'm just going to work hard and let the Flyers decide that. I would be a little disappointed for sure, but I think it wouldn't be bad to go there [to the Phantoms] and get a lot of ice time and learn."

Defensemen Sean Curry and Nate Guenin and forwards Jon Kalinski, Boyd Kane and Jared Ross will be joining Giroux on the AHL club.

While Giroux will start the year with the Phantoms, he will see games with the Flyers this season as injuries dictate a need.

One such injury occurred Wednesday night when Steve Downie suffered a minor MCL sprain of his left knee during a fight against Washington's Jay Beagle.

Downie had an MRI yesterday and while it revealed the sprain, he is expected to miss only the rest of the preseason and should be available for the opener, Oct. 11 at home against the Rangers.

"I don't he's as serious as we thought he was going to be when we saw him getting helped off the ice," Stevens said. "So I don't think he will be out as long as we originally suspected." *

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