NEW YORK - Starting today, the fogginess that has crowded the Flyers' locker room finally could begin to clear up in Manhattan. After Claude Giroux's triumphant return from a concussion on Wednesday night, the Flyers may be closer to getting two more players back from head injuries.
Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier did not travel with the Flyers to Denver and Dallas, but they met the team in New York last night to continue rehabbing from their head injuries.
According to general manager Paul Holmgren, Schenn - out with a concussion since Dec. 3 - has been skating on his own "for a few days now." Schenn originally returned to practice on Dec. 14 in Montreal but ceased team activities for a few days shortly after that with what is believed to have been a slight setback.
Couturier, who spent last Saturday night in Pennsylvania Hospital after being struck in the head by a Kimmo Timonen shot, has not set foot on the ice since then. HBO's cameras revealed in Wednesday's episode of "24/7 Road to the Winter Classic" that Couturier also suffered a cut on his head.
While Couturier and Schenn are both doubtful to play against the Rangers tonight, Holmgren said both are expected to take part in today's pregame skate at Madison Square Garden. The Flyers have not fielded a full opening night lineup of healthy forwards since Oct. 26.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette keeps his troops on track during a long season by breaking up the schedule into segments of games with a set goal for points. No matter how he has broken down December's stretch with 10 road games, his team has exceeded his goals.
The Flyers have earned 13 of a possible 14 points in their first seven road games in the month of December alone. They've outscored opponents, 28-17, during that stretch.
"I think you try to break it up into different segments and different road trips," Matt Carle explained. "We're working toward the Christmas break now and then two more games before the Winter Classic. It is coming to a close. It's been a tough stretch, but we know if we come out of it with a pretty decent record, we will be in a good spot."
As it stands, the Flyers are atop the Eastern Conference and just two points back of Chicago for the overall NHL lead.
"I think a lot of that is due to our play on the road," Scott Hartnell said. "Our simple style has made us hard to beat."
Despite daytime temperatures that climbed into the low 60s yesterday in Philadelphia, NHL ice guru Dan Craig - the man in charge of the Winter Classic build at Citizens Bank Park - said that he expected to start pumping a glycol coolant through the freshly laid pipes on the base of new surface last night.
With sufficient time to bring down the temperature surrounding the pipes, Craig said he hoped to begin spraying water onto the surface after 3 o'clock this afternoon to begin making ice. The boards, auxiliary seating in the outfield and most of they key pieces are already in place at the Bank.