Flyers Skate Update: Claude Giroux regaining confidence after offseason hip surgery

Flyers Skate Update: Claude Giroux regaining confidence after offseason hip surgery

VOORHEES, N.J. -- When the Flyers drop the puck vs. Carolina Sunday night, they will have a better chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft than making the playoffs this season (see game notes).

The Flyers have shown the ability to be a playoff team at times this season. Remember that 10-game win streak? That seems like an eternity ago for the Flyers, who have been aching to find any semblance of consistency in the months since (see story). Ever since the streak ended in mid-December, the Flyers' longest win streak reached just three games.

The problem is, they've also looked more like a draft lottery team recently.

At the center of the Flyers' consistency issues is captain Claude Giroux.

Giroux, along with defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, underwent right hip and bilateral lower abdominal surgeries in May. The captain has put up just 51 points this season, on pace for his lowest total since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

Giroux, as fans will surely tell you, simply hasn't been the same player this season. After Sunday's optional morning skate, Giroux opened up about getting over the mental hump of the surgery.

"When you try to make plays that you used to make and you can't really make them, it's frustrating and confusing, but when you start getting that confidence back, you know you can make those plays," Giroux said.

"It was new. You're trying to do the things that you know you can do and it's just not happening. You try and think a little bit too much of how you can be the player you want to be and it's not easy, but you just gotta work at it. I think it's more off-ice."

Giroux admitted it took some time for him to mentally get over his injury; to get out there and play and not worry about re-injuring the hip.

"I think when you don't think about that kind of stuff you just go out there and play the game, but when it's in the back of your mind, you kind of, you're not really thinking about the game," Giroux said. "You're mostly thinking about your hips or whatever. I think it's important just to kind of focus on the right things and even if you don't feel good out there, you got to find a way to be strong mentally."

With just 12 games to go in the regular season, and the Flyers seven seemingly insurmountable points behind Toronto for the second wild-card spot, Giroux says he has finally gotten his confidence back.

"Yeah, confidence, I think, is a big part of anybody's play. It's hard to get, but when you get it, you feel really good about it," Giroux said.

"I think when you feel a little bit more comfortable and you got that jump in your play, you feel a little bit more comfortable keeping the puck and you just try to make the right play out there."

With points in his last six games (two goals, four assists), Giroux is visibly more confident with the puck and back to his playmaking ways.

"I really noticed the pace and the speed of his game has been very good over the last 10 days, two weeks, it seems like he's been able to elevate a little bit there," coach Dave Hakstol said.

"The quickness and the speed and the pace of his game, both with and without the puck, I think has been at a little different level here recently."

But it's too little, too late for the Flyers, who have just a 0.6 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey Reference, and a 4.5 percent chance to get the draft's top pick, according to Tankathon.

Still, there are games left to be played, and the Flyers are holding on to whatever minuscule chances they have.

"Hopefully it starts with a big win tonight at home and then carries on throughout the road trip. We really have no choice left with 12 games, we gotta get hot and gotta go on a massive streak if we want to gain some points and squeak into the playoffs," Brayden Schenn said.

Loose pucks
Steve Mason will start in net for the eighth time in nine games. Mason left Thursday's loss to New Jersey early in the third period with leg cramps. Mason says he "feels great" and is "not worried about the workload at all."

Defenseman Brandon Manning remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will sit vs. Carolina.

Projected lineup
F:
Brayden Schenn-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Sean Couturier-Dale Weise
Matt Read-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Chris VandeVelde

D: Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Michael Del Zotto-Radko Gudas
Shayne Gostisbehere-Nick Schultz

G: Steve Mason

NHL Playoffs: Penguins chase Holtby, beat Capitals to take 2-0 series lead

NHL Playoffs: Penguins chase Holtby, beat Capitals to take 2-0 series lead

WASHINGTON -- Phil Kessel scored twice, Sidney Crosby set up more goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins chased Braden Holtby on the way to a 6-2 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 2 Saturday night that gave them a commanding 2-0 lead in their second-round series.

Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant again in stopping 34 of the 36 shots he faced for Pittsburgh, which also got goals by Matt Cullen, Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins scored three goals on 14 shots on Holtby, who was pulled in favor of Philipp Grubauer after the second period.

Grubauer didn't fare much better, allowing two goals on nine shots. Matt Niskanen and Nicklas Backstrom scored for the Capitals, who outshot the Penguins 36-23 but still face an uphill task of trying to become just the 19th team to win a series after losing the first two games at home.

Guentzel added an empty-net goal to seal it for the Penguins, his playoff-best seventh (see full recap).

Pageau gets 4th goal in 2OT to lift Sens over Rangers
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau got his fourth goal of the game in the second overtime after scoring twice late in regulation, lifting the Ottawa Senators over the New York Rangers 6-5 Saturday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Ottawa leads the series 2-0 despite trailing by two goals after Brady Skjei's score with 14:50 left in the third. Pageau cut it to 5-4 with 3:19 left in the period, then tied it with 1:02 remaining.

Pageau scored again 2:54 into the second OT, snapping in a shot during a 2-on-1 rush alongside Tommy Wingels. Pageau is the first Senator ever with four goals in a playoff game.

Marc Methot and Mark Stone also scored for Ottawa, and Craig Anderson had 43 saves.

Skjei had two goals for New York and Michael Grabner, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan also scored. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 shots.

The series heads to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday night (see full recap).

Ron Hextall on landing No. 2 overall pick: 'This is a big day for our franchise'

Ron Hextall on landing No. 2 overall pick: 'This is a big day for our franchise'

You remember the 2007 NHL draft?

The Flyers were robbed that year in the draft lottery and were forced to settle for the No. 2 overall pick later that June.

They chose James van Riemsdyk and the Chicago Blackhawks — drafting first — tabbed Patrick Kane.

Well, the Flyers got some needed payback Saturday night in Toronto at the 2017 draft lottery.
 
While the Flyers didn't win the top overall pick in this year's draft, they pretty much won the lottery just the same, moving from 13th overall to the No. 2 selection (see story).

"This is a big day for our franchise," said general manager Ron Hextall, who was an assistant general manager with Los Angeles in 2007 when it was Paul Holmgren's team in Philadelphia.

"When the 13th pick went by there and we knew we were one, two or three, that was a huge move for our franchise. We couldn't be more excited."

New Jersey will pick No. 1 and Dallas will pick third. Neither Colorado, the worst team in the NHL, nor Vegas, the newcomer to the NHL, made the top three.

The Flyers bucked enormous odds to advance from 13th to No. 2. They had a 2.4 percent chance of pulling it off. They were nearly 89 percent certain to remain at 13.

Maybe their luck is changing.

"We had a lot of bad luck this year," Hextall said. "I'm hoping this is a turning point for some of that to be turned around. This is a big point for our franchise. We're obviously going to get a very good player and hopefully in years, we'll look back on this as a turning point for us."

Depending on what the Devils do, the Flyers, who need offensive pop, are expected to select either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, both promising forwards who are considered impact players.

While this draft is nowhere near as deep as last year's with Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine, it still holds quality in the first round and the Flyers are guaranteed a player who should make a difference.

"This isn't as bad as a draft as people say it is," Hextall said. "We felt with the 13th pick, we would get a good player. It's probably an average draft.

"The last couple drafts have been bumper but this is a good draft. Obviously, moving up to No. 2, we're going to get an even better player."

Patrick, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League and was named the top skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau despite missing parts of the season with a lingering groin/abdominal injury.

The 6-foot-2, 198-pound center had 20 goals and 46 points in 33 games and still was a consensus No. 1 or 2 player by most scouts. His lineage is excellent, as his uncle, James Patrick, played 1,280 games.

Hischier is trying to become the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history. Nino Niederreiter was taken fifth overall by the New York Islanders in 2010.

The 6-foot, 176-pound Hischier led the QMJHL rookie class with 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games this season.

Can either Patrick or Hischier play right now?

"I don't know who that player is going to be," Hextall said. "Any player, as you know from my history, they've got to come in and earn it.

"If we draft a player at No. 2 and he comes in and earns it, then he'll be on our team. If he needs more time, he needs more time."

That said, Hextall admitted his scouting staff had paid attention to pick anywhere from No. 1 to 13th or worse, especially after things started going south for the Flyers in late winter and the playoffs began slipping away.

Hextall would not compare this year's draft-eligible players, talk about them individually or indicate which player he felt might be available at No. 2.

For now, Hextall envisions keeping the second pick but wouldn't rule out trading down if the right offer was there.

"You can't say no to anything because you don't know what will come your way," Hextall said.

The Avalanche, who had the best shot at winning the No. 1 pick, will draft fourth. Vancouver is fifth and Vegas will pick sixth.

Hextall watched the draft lottery on TV after returning home from Finland.

"Sometimes you get some good luck and sometimes you get some bad luck," Hextall said. "This was a fortunate day for our franchise. This was a big one."