UNDERSTANDABLY, the Flyers are being cautious with star right wing Claude Giroux, who was accidentally kneed in the head Saturday by teammate Wayne Simmonds. While the team has not clarified the extent of his injury - if indeed Giroux suffered a concussion - Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said in a statement yesterday that "Claude is continuing to feel better."
Giroux will not travel with his teammates to Washington, where they play the Capitals tonight, but instead will again be seen by a team doctor, Holmgren added.
Stepping into the void created by Giroux' injury is likely to be Sean Couturier. Selected by the Flyers eighth overall in the 2011 NHL draft, Couturier was called upon by coach Peter Laviolette to replace Giroux in the second period Saturday. Laviolette liked what he saw and worked Couturier at practice yesterday on the top line with Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell.
Laviolette would not say definitively whether he planned to use Couturier in that spot this evening. But he appeared to lean that way.
"We had to move someone up [Saturday] and we finished the game that way," Laviolette said. "We moved Sean up, and we generated two or three quality scoring chances. We just had to get through practice today. We'll figure it out and adjust the lineups tomorrow. But based on the way he finished the game the other night, he did a good job, so we put him there in practice."
Laviolette referred questions about Giroux to Holmgren.
Giroux was not available for comment.
But teammate Danny Briere said Giroux "seems to be doing better every day." Briere added he was confident Giroux would be back soon.
Jagr also voiced optimism.
"I know that if it was up to him, he want to play tomorrow," Jagr said. "But the doctors have to be sure." Jagr added that the Flyers wanted to be careful with Giroux, "especially with the talent he has.
"You have to look at him [in terms] of the next 10 years, not just two games," said Jagr, who then joked, "If he was my age , nobody would care."
Couturier is excited to get his chance to play alongside Jagr and Hartnell. While he has played well on the penalty kill, he looks forward to showing what he can do offensively. Asked whether he worried about putting too much pressure on himself, Couturier shrugged and replied, "Not really."
"I look at it like an opportunity," he said. "I just to know what I can do bring energy and momentum to the team."
Couturier added that he is especially eager to be on the ice again with Jagr.
"On the bench, you see his 'wow' [plays]," Couturier said. "Out there on the ice, you have to be ready for those 'wow' plays."
Jagr said Couturier should be fine.
"He is a very good player," Jagr said. "He had a lot of scoring chances on the penalty kill. Not a lot of players can do that."
Did Jagr have any advice for him?
"I think he should be OK," Jagr said. "I am a different player than I was 10 years ago. I would have been tough to play with 10 years ago. Now, I'm so nice."
Hartnell also expected Couturier to blend in on the top line.
"He's a young kid with a lot of skill," Hartnell said. "He's still learning the ropes. But it's pretty simple. Get the puck to Jagr, go to the net and good things will happen."
Good things have been happening to the Flyers lately. They have won five straight, their longest winning streak since last December. To close out December, the Flyers will play seven of eight games on the road.
"We'll be having a lot of nights in hotels," Hartnell said.
Laviolette acknowledged it would be a "grind," but has been pleased with how his team has played on the road.
"If we can get through the month and keep doing what we've been doing," Laviolette said, "the schedule sets up in our favor in the second half."