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

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

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John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.  

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

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USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin has turned his steady play for the Stanley Cup champions into a new contract.

Dumoulin and the team agreed to a six-year deal on Monday that will run through the 2022-23 season and will pay him an average of $4.1 million per year.

The 25-year-old Dumoulin had three goals and 11 assists during Pittsburgh's run to the Cup this spring and hasn't missed a playoff game during the team's sprint to back-to-back titles.

Dumoulin averaged a team-high 21:59 of ice time this postseason, and his plus-9 rating was best among Penguins defensemen. Dumoulin was forced to take on a larger roll this spring after injuries forced Kris Letang to miss the playoffs.

Predators: Watson signs 3-year, $3.3 million deal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year $3.3 million deal keeping him under contract through 2019-20.

The Predators announced the deal Monday.

Watson will earn $1 million this season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in the third year.

The 25-year-old forward is coming off his best season yet with Nashville. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound Watson had a career high with five goals and seven assists in 77 games this past season. Watson scored four goals and had nine points in 22 playoff games helping Nashville reach the Stanley Cup Final.

The 18th pick overall in the 2010 draft, Watson had three goals and 10 points in 57 games during the 2015-16 season.

Now, center Ryan Johansen is Nashville's lone restricted free agent awaiting a new deal.

Sabres: Okposo says he’s healthy after concussion
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sabres winger Kyle Okposo said he is fully healthy after a concussion led to sleeping trouble, significant weight loss and a trip to intensive care last March.

Okposo missed the final few weeks of Buffalo's season with a previously undisclosed illness. In a letter posted on the team's website Monday, Okposo said a routine hit in practice caused his mood to change and other problems that required hospitalization.

The 29-year-old said he lost his appetite, had a negative reaction to sleep medications and that at one point he weighed less than 200 pounds. He spent time in the Neuro Surgical ICU at Buffalo General Hospital to be stabilized. Okposo's playing weight is listed at 218 pounds.

Okposo played in a 4-on-4 summer league game in Minnesota with other NHL players last week and reported feeling great. New general manager Jason Botterill said Okposo was on track to be ready for training camp.

"I've worked with a lot of different people -- concussion experts and people who have dealt with concussions themselves -- and I feel confident in the fact that I can play hockey again," Okposo said in the letter. "In fact, I know I can play again. I know I can play and not worry about hitting my head, which is a major hurdle for someone who's dealt with this. If I didn't feel 100 percent right now, that probably wouldn't be the case."

Okposo's last NHL game was March 27 against Florida. He had 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points in 65 games during his first season with Buffalo. He signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Sabres last summer.

NHL: Gamble to get back Hall of Fame ring
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A scuba-diving treasure hunter who found an American Hockey League Hall of Fame ring in one of New York's Finger Lakes is returning it to its owner.

Gary Gavurnik, of Auburn, New York, plans to return the prized ring to former AHL star Dick Gamble on Monday. Gavurnik found it with a metal detector in Canandaigua Lake over the Fourth of July weekend.

The 88-year-old Canadian-born Gamble starred for the AHL's Rochester Americans and retired early in the 1969-70 season. He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2007.

Instead of wearing the ring, though, he gave it to his son, Craig, who wore it every day for seven years before losing it in the lake. He never told his dad and ordered a replacement.