IT HAD been more than 3 1/2 years since Claude Giroux last dropped his gloves for a fight.
That last time, in the 2012 playoffs, was his memorable bout with Sidney Crosby in the Flyers' series win over Pittsburgh.
Last Wednesday, with his team trailing in Brooklyn and the game slipping out of reach, Giroux had a short bout with Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy.
He said afterward he was trying to change the momentum of the game. It didn't work in the moment - the Flyers ended up losing the game. But his team has won three straight since. Maybe there's a correlation.
"He's a perfect example of leading by example," said Giroux's left winger, Michael Raffl. "I don't think it's the easiest way. I think he did that, and he's doing that, ever since I've known him."
Throughout the ups and downs the early portion of the season, one constant has been Giroux's play on the ice. Maybe the goals weren't coming in bunches for his line, but his effort and drive and his "lead by example" ways never changed.
And the points are finally starting to come. After having points in only five of the Flyers' first 12 games, Giroux has points in nine of the last 13. His 20 points lead the team by six.
Giroux isn't the loudest, most vocal player in the dressing room. But he doesn't need to be. His play speaks for itself, whether it's at even strength, on the power play, on the penalty kill, or even in the faceoff circle, where Giroux's 364 wins was tops in the league entering Thursday's action.
The Flyers' lack of success early in the season prompted the question to be asked of whether now was the time to trade Giroux, the team so far from contending. There were questions about his ability to exist with Jake Voracek on his wing over the long haul, both signed to contracts in the organization that will keep them teammates at least through the year 2022.
New coach Dave Hakstol has even split the two stars up in an attempt to try and get a dormant offense going.
Giroux has played well and played hard through it all.
"He's such a competitor," Raffl said. "He gets you going all the time. I love it."
"He always leaves everything out there," winger Jake Voracek said. "That's all you can ask for from a guy that's been on the top of the league in points over the last five, six seasons. If you see see that he's leaving everything out there, every single shift, that's leading by example.
"You've got 23 guys on the team. You kind of just try to put that group together and go out there and battle hard. That's the way he does it. He's just a competitor. And if you're a captain that's a competitor, everything is easier."
Voracek said he and Giroux are pretty good friends who have similar personalities. The way Giroux has helped Voracek deal with a big scoring slump is by joking around with him. Voracek said Giroux knows the right buttons to press with him.
Asked about what it was like to be captaining a team that had such an up-and-down start to the season, Giroux, who has been the captain since January 2013, took the focus off himself.
"We're in this all together," Giroux said. "We obviously don't want to be in the situation we are now. But we have to look at the positives."
His teammates can start by looking at the positives coming out of Giroux's game.
Hakstol said he's had all different types of leaders in his years coaching hockey.
"Guys have to lead in their own way," Hakstol said. "They have to stay true to their personality and to what they are and then lead naturally from within. Everybody has to do it a little bit differently. Claude does it his way, and he does it very well.
"There's other guys that do things and lead differently in our group. His role and his way, as our captain, is truly within his competitive personality."
What does that competitive personality look like to the first-year NHL coach in his three-plus months around Giroux?
"He's got a competitive drive to him and a will to win that doesn't change, no matter what the situation or what he's doing," Hakstol said. "Maybe one of the things that separates him a little bit is also that he has a will to win, but I think he has a true hatred to lose."
Is there a difference between the two?
"There is a difference," Hakstol said. "I think everybody likes to win. But that hatred to lose usually drives you pretty hard."
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol on the three-game suspension the league handed to defenseman Radko Gudas for his hit Tuesday on Ottawa forward Mika Zibanejad: "Honestly, I disagree with the outcome. But in saying that, it's the league's decision, and we'll respect that decision and move forward. We've already done that, I think" . . . With Gudas out until at least Thursday, it's good timing for defenseman Nick Schultz (upper-body) to likely be making his return Friday in New Jersey . . . The Devils (13-10-2) are three points ahead of the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division.