Ilya Bryzgalov did not see Claude Giroux skate off the ice in pain on Saturday, but he said what every Flyers fan, player, coach and executive was thinking.
"Oh my God," Bryzgalov said. "That's bad. I hope it's nothing serious, because he's a big part of our team and he's one of our best players."
Giroux was accidentally kneed in the head by teammate Wayne Simmonds as he was striding up the ice in the Flyers' 5-2 win over Tampa Bay and he immediately left the game. The HBO cameras filming the Flyers' every move were forced out of the team's locker room to comply with NHL rules regarding a possible concussion.
The good news is that Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Giroux "felt better" yesterday morning and will be re-examined today. The truth is that it is really too soon to tell if Giroux is in the clear.
History aside, take the Flyers' most recent brush with concussions as proof. Sometimes, the symptoms take time to rear their ugly head. On Friday, the Flyers officially labeled Chris Pronger as "out indefinitely" after suffering from concussion-like symptoms. He was high-sticked in the eye on Oct. 24 but returned to the ice on Nov. 9 after being cleared to play.
Pronger played just four games, but it wasn't his wonky knee - which ultimately needed surgery on Nov. 29 - that kept him off the ice.
Pronger explained the symptoms as something he "never felt before," with persistent headaches, nausea and general sluggishness. On Wednesday in Pittsburgh, he will meet with renowned concussion experts Dr. Mickey Collins and Dr. Joe Maroon, the same specialists who have kept tabs on Sidney Crosby. It's not known whether the high-stick, or the resulting damage to his right eye, have any connection to Pronger's symptoms.
Brayden Schenn was knocked around by Raffi Torres on Dec. 3 in Phoenix, but it took until Dec. 5 for him to report his symptoms to the team's training staff. Schenn continued to play in the game in Phoenix, felt fine on the flight home to Philadelphia after the game, followed it with a day off Monday and even got through half a practice Tuesday before being unable to continue.
The Flyers believe Schenn's concussion is more "mild" at this point, so he will not be accompanying Pronger to Pittsburgh.
But what do Pronger and Schenn have in common? Neither player felt the symptoms immediately after the contact - in one case it took weeks, in the other it was days - and both of them passed their baseline IMPACT tests.
That doesn't exactly bode well for the validity of the IMPACT test.
Holmgren did not say yesterday whether or not Giroux has undergone a baseline or IMPACT test to better evaluate his condition. But Holmgren said on Saturday night that Giroux was "not really" dealing with headaches after he connected with Simmonds' knee.
For now, it would make sense if the Flyers held Giroux out for a game or two this week just to be sure no delayed symptoms creep up. As Holmgren noted on Saturday night, games in December for a first-place team mean little in the grand scheme of an 82-game schedule. It would be a lot easier to deal with any pain now than have it linger until March or April.
Giroux should be handled with the same kid gloves that kept Crosby out of the lineup for 68 straight games and another two this week as a precaution. Giroux leads the NHL in scoring by three points, despite having a game in-hand on Toronto's Phil Kessel. He added another two assists on Saturday night in less than two full periods of work.
"Claude has been playing on a different stratosphere here for us, so obviously it hurts," Holmgren said. "This really is just precautionary at this stage . . . so we'll just err on the side of caution here."
Luckily for the Flyers, Ilya Bryzgalov's injury is a lot less serious. Bryzgalov, who initially said his injury was an equipment malfunction, conceded that he was a "bad liar" and that he left Saturday's game in the third period because of an "old boo-boo."
Paul Holmgren said yesterday that Bryzgalov is "doing much better" and should be ready to play tomorrow night in Washington. It appeared to be a muscular-based problem in his lower-body, as Bryzgalov was seen stretching in the tunnel that leads to the Flyers' locker room. Bryzgalov posted his fifth straight win on Saturday night, pushing his record to 13-5-2. He has given up 13 goals over those five games - and two of those games went past regulation.
"We talked about it yesterday at the meeting and he said he wanted to suspend me. I said, 'How are you going to do this? I don't have hit yet! Maybe you'll suspend me because I am [skating] too close to a player?' I don't think there is a suspension for that."
- Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr about his conversation with NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan, whom he tied for 11th place on the league's all-time list with 656 goals. Shanahan, the league's disciplinarian, held a 30-minute meeting with the Flyers at Friday's practice to review dangerous hits on video.
5: Flyers' current winning streak, matching their longest winning streak since Dec. 9-18, 2010.
10: Points for Claude Giroux during the Flyers' five-game streak (three goals, seven assists). Despite having a game in-hand, Giroux has a three-point lead on Toronto's Phil Kessel in the league's points race.
11th: Jaromir Jagr's rank on the NHL's all-time scoring list, tied with Brendan Shanahan, after his 656th career goal on Saturday night. Jagr trails Joe Sakic by 18 points for eighth place on the all-time points list.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Snider into U.S. HHOF
Tonight, 7 o'clock
Flyers chairman Ed Snider will be inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Chicago at the Renaissance Hotel. Also in the Hall's Class of 2011 are Keith Tkachuk, Chris Chelios, Gary Suter and broadcaster Mike "Doc" Emrick. Snider, 78, is one of 23 members in the administrator category out of 153 overall members in the Eveleth, Minn.,-based Hall of Fame.
Tomorrow, 7 o'clock
One team's winning streak - either the Flyers' five-game streak or the Caps' two-game run - will end at the Verizon Center. It has been an interesting run in Washington since former Flyers nemesis Dale Hunter took over on Nov. 28. The Capitals are 3-3-0 under Hunter but two of those wins were against lowly Ottawa. The Flyers were stomped by Washington, 5-2, back on Oct. 20, but that was under Bruce Boudreau. Alex Ovechkin only has 21 points - just one more than Kimmo
Timonen and less than Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere and Jaromir Jagr.
HBO's 24/7 Premiere
Wednesday, 10 o'clock
The first of four long-awaited episodes of HBO's "24/7 Road to the Winter Classic" reality show premieres. The hourlong show also encores an hour later. Three subsequent episodes will air on consecutive Wednesdays, including Dec. 21, Dec. 28 and wrap-up to the Classic on Jan. 4.
Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
It has been a hapless start to the season in Montreal, where the Canadiens have drawn the ire of one of hockey's most passionate fan bases with a 12-11-7 run out of the gate. Still, the
Canadiens enter the week tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. As it stands, they deserve to be lumped with the bottom-tier teams, partly because their punchless lineup is just 4-5-1 at the Bell Centre.