C LAUDE GIROUX was on the golf course yesterday in Ottawa with teammate Jason Akeson, taking a break from offseason training, when one swing changed his entire summer.

"It was just a freak thing," Giroux told the Daily News. "I was taking a swing and my club hit a little behind the ball. The shaft of the club shattered, but my hand kept going on the swing and the shattered part went right into my finger."

He said blood was everywhere. Akeson shuttled Giroux immediately to Ottawa Civic Hospital, where the Flyers captain had surgery on his right index finger. Giroux did not fracture anything, but required surgery because he damaged his extensor tendons. Giroux said he received "excellent care" from the same doctor who cares for the Senators.

General manager Paul Holmgren said Giroux will be fully recovered in 5 to 6 weeks, but Giroux doesn't think it will be that long. The Flyers open training camp on Sept. 12 at Wells Fargo Center, and their first preseason game is Sept. 15 in London, Ontario, against the Maple Leafs.

"I think I'll really be able to get back to doing things in 2 to 3 weeks," Giroux said. "I will be able to skate, and get in skating shape, but I won't be able to be lifting any weights for a while."

A full 6 weeks would peg Giroux' return around Sept. 26, meaning he could be in the lineup for their final preseason tuneup in Washington on Sept. 27.

Giroux played all 48 games during last year's lockout shortened campaign, though he did have surgery on both wrists last offseason to repair ligaments. He suffered a neck injury in November in Germany while waiting out the lockout. He finished with 47 points.

Giroux, 25, is entering the final year of his 3-year, $11.25 million deal, his second as the captain. He signed a max-term, 8-year, $66.2 million extension with the Flyers on July 5.

"This is more frustrating than you even know," Giroux said. "I really feel like this was my best summer of training I've had so far. I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. This really isn't a big deal, though. Something like this isn't going to hold me back."

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