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

Best of NHL: Nikita Kucherov hat trick lifts Lightning over Bruins

Best of NHL: Nikita Kucherov hat trick lifts Lightning over Bruins

BOSTON -- Nikita Kucherov had his third career hat trick to lead Tampa Bay to a 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, snapping the Lightning's three-game losing streak.

Jonathan Drouin had a goal and two assists, Brayden Point had a goal and an assist and Anton Stralman also scored to help the Lightning pull three points behind the Bruins for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Peter Budaj finished with 28 saves for the Lightning to earn his 29th win of the season. Ondrej Palat had three assists, and Jake Dotchin and Victor Hedman added two each.

Riley Nashy had a goal and an assist for Boston, and David Pastrnak and Zdeno Chara also scored. Tuukka Rask stopped 23 shots as Boston, which won seven of the first eight games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, has now lost four straight and six of 11 (see full recap).

Oshie beats Bobrovsky to give Caps SO win
WASHINGTON -- T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington's 35th shot of the game. Orlov's goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead (see full recap).

Senators take down Penguins in shootout
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan scored in the shootout to lift the Ottawa Senators to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

Mike Hoffman scored in regulation for the Senators and Mike Condon finished with 34 saves, including two incredible point-blank stops in overtime to keep the game going.

Nick Bonino had the goal in regulation for the Penguins and Matt Murray stopped 29 shots.

After being outplayed for much of the first two periods, the Senators were much better in the third and tied the score 1-1 on the power play at 9:43 as Hoffman beat Murray over the shoulder with a wrist shot just 14 seconds after Matt Cullen was penalized for holding (see full recap).

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When Zach Parise scored for the Minnesota Wild just 2:07 into Thursday's game, the Flyers were in another difficult position on the road.

This time, they responded with the type of game they've needed on the road all season.

The Flyers scored three unanswered goals by Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek to beat Minnesota, 3-1, and snap a four-game losing streak on the road (see Instant Replay).

"They're a tough team to handle in their transition," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Parise's goal. "It's quick and it's fast. The players on the bench were outstanding, talking, real calm. Just go out and push it the other way the next shift and I thought we were able to do that."

The Flyers responded with one of their best efforts on the road in nearly two months and pulled within six points of Boston for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (see standings). The Bruins lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay.

Steve Mason made 24 saves in goal for his 100th win with the Flyers as the team was rarely challenged thanks to an all-around performance that has been missing on the road. The Flyers entered the night tied for the second-fewest road wins in the conference this season.

"Certain things on the road, you've got to be a little more specific with your game and detailed, and I think we did a better job of that tonight," said Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz, who returned to the arena where he played 10 seasons with Minnesota. "Everybody throughout the lineup did that and that's why we got a big win."

The beginning looked all too familiar, though.

An innocent looking dump-in slid to Mason, who tried to cover the puck. The puck went off his stick and Parise quickly poked it past Mason. The Wild had four quality chances early before the Flyers took control.

"They came hard early on in the game and to be able to match that speed; that was a completely different pace of game compared to what we came from in Winnipeg," Mason said. "So, it almost took a second to get your bearings straight to get up to speed."

The Flyers weathered the early flurry by Minnesota, which is safely in playoff position in the West but is facing its own late-season issues. The Flyers killed off both Wild penalties, allowing just two shots on the penalty kill.

Couturier's 12th goal of the season was critical in tying the game with 2:01 left in the first (see feature highlight).

"Coming into the room after the period, I think it's important when you get a big goal like that," captain Claude Giroux said. "You feel like you have the momentum a little bit, so it definitely helped us a lot."

Read provided the lead in the second and the Flyers, who are now 15-2-2 when leading after two periods, pressured in the third. They outshot the Wild, 9-4, in the final period.

"We didn't sit back," Hakstol said. "I thought we were confident with the puck and made some plays and spent a good amount of time in the offensive zone. We played with real confidence in our game."

Mason had been critical after the Flyers lost in Winnipeg on Tuesday, saying the team needed to be more desperate. The Flyers responded Thursday in the difficult position of being on the road and allowing the first goal.

"We knew we had to be better," Schultz said of Mason's comments. "I think on the road, you've got to be at least a .500 team and take care of business at home, and we haven't done that this year. So, obviously, we've got to get better and I think we did respond tonight. Now we have to build on it."