Philadelphia Flyers

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

Gunn's bullet points: Run game comes alive and a kicker saves the day

Gunn's bullet points: Run game comes alive and a kicker saves the day

Five bullet points from the Eagles' 27-24 win over the Giants in their home opener (see breakdown).

• The smallest guy on the field was the biggest hero Sunday. Jake Elliott's 61-yard field goal on the final play of the game saved what could have been a disaster. Wide receiver Torrey Smith said, "We didn't even know he could kick it that far." Other players admitted they had hardly spoken to Elliott in the two weeks he's been here, but they would definitely go out of their way to exchange words with him in the future.

• Thirty-nine (39?!?!) rushing attempts in one game! The Birds had a grand total of 41 attempts in the first two games. The Giants came into this affair allowing 133.5 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles busted them up for 193. Wendell Smallwood told me, "We just knew where the holes would be after watching them on tape." Lane Johnson added, "We did a great job of mixing up our runs inside, outside, mix directions and delay runs."

• The Giants' trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard combined for 24 catches, 278 yards and three touchdowns. They killed the Eagles on slant routes. Considering how depleted the Eagles' secondary was, Jalen Mills said they wanted to keep everything in front of them. When I asked cornerback Patrick Robinson why they played Beckham so much in single coverage, he responded, "We didn't think he was that healthy, but in the second half, we found out otherwise."

• As if the Birds' defense wasn't banged up enough going into this game, they lost Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks along the way. Safety Rodney McLeod, who was a scratch for this game, told me he will be ready for Philip Rivers and the Chargers next week.

• Numerous players said they were proud of the way the team came together in unity in response to President Trump's comments. Alshon Jeffery told me, "It doesn't make a difference if you're black or white, we are all in this together."

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers play a preseason back-to-back set when they visit the Rangers on Monday, then host them Tuesday.

With such a schedule setup, head coach Dave Hakstol already has two lineups in mind as the Flyers continue their evaluation for the opening night roster. The training camp roster is technically at 29, but with three players injured (Cole Bardreau, Colin McDonald, Anthony Stolarz), it's actually at 26 and must be down to 23 by the Oct. 4 season opener.

The obvious roster hopefuls are forwards Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Mike Vecchione, and defensemen Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim.

"Everybody that's here is still in the mix," Hakstol said after practice Sunday at Flyers Skate Zone. "I said it a couple days ago, this is when the competition gets pretty high."

If Sunday's practice combinations are any indication of what Monday's lineup will look like at Madison Square Garden, Travis Konecny, Vecchione, Leier and Lindblom will be extras. They were the four-man rotational line Sunday.

Hakstol said there could be some differences from the groupings Sunday when it comes to Monday's game. However, he does hope to play each bubble player at least one of the two games. So whoever sits Monday is more than likely to play Tuesday.

Eyes on Patrick
Patrick is feeling better and better.

After assisting Shayne Gostisbehere's overtime winner in Wednesday's 3-2 preseason split-squad win against the Islanders, Patrick played 16:50 Thursday in the 2-1 OT loss to the Bruins at TD Garden. The No. 2 overall pick saw some power-play time, had a few shots on goal and a pair of takeaways.

"Last game was the most comfortable I've felt," Patrick said Sunday.

He's now played in three preseason games, as well as the rookie game.

Patrick centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds on the second unit at practice, a spot in which suits his strengths playing between two finishers with a good blend of ways to score.

Look for that line to stick Monday.

"We've only had one game together, but I think Simmer's obviously a top player in the league, he was an All-Star last year, he can put the puck in the net and make plays," Patrick said. "So he's big down low to create space. Jordan's great offensively, he's got a lot of speed, so I just try to play smart and find them when they're open and make plays."

Sound with studs
Hagg has put together a strong camp and preseason.

The 22-year-old defenseman is well-groomed and prides himself on play in his own end. Playing alongside Gostisbehere doesn't hurt, either. It allows Gostisbehere to focus a bit more on producing offensively because Hagg understands his defensive role.

The last two days, Hagg has been paired with Ivan Provorov.

With those two, he isn't complaining and seems to relish being the complementary piece.

"They're pretty good guys to play with," Hagg said.

"I don't mind it. Let them do their job and I'm taking care of the defense, kind of what I did last year, as well. Start getting used to it and I don't have any problems with it.

"I think my best game is in the D-zone, shutting down guys, 1-on-1 battles. And then sure, I can follow up in the game and find some pucks here and there. But my main focus is to be good in the D-zone, take care of that and the rest will take care of itself."

Roster two cents
Vecchione has played only two preseason games thus far and he was among the four-man line at practice. He should play at least one of these games on the back-to-back, but at this point, he looks like he'll start the season at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. There just isn't a spot for the rookie forward right now and he won't be on the roster to be an extra man.

Laughton seems to be a safe bet to make the Flyers' roster. He's been playing in the exact role the Flyers are hoping for him and he proved growth to general manager Ron Hextall last season with the Phantoms.

Leier has done everything you'd ask for from a guy fighting for a spot. However, the numbers game likely pegs him at Lehigh Valley to start 2017-18.

Nonetheless, Hakstol has been impressed by the 23-year-old winger, who had a two-goal game Wednesday in the 3-2 split-squad win at the PPL Center.

"It's about playing his role, what his role is," Hakstol said. "Taylor's a responsible two-way forward. When he's been with us, he's played in that third, fourth-line wing type of role, he's killed penalties — that's his chair. He's done a good job of that so far in camp and that's why he's got himself solidly in the mix."

Can't get enough
Weal is always getting in extra work.

Ever since coming to the Flyers in the January 2016 Vinny Lecavalier trade, he is often the first player on the ice before practice even starts. On Sunday, he was the last one off of it with Konecny. Together, the two took in some bonus ice time.

The 25-year-old Weal just loves the rink and it's gotten him from lots of healthy scratches in 2015-16 to what should be a prominent role in 2017-18.

Quotables
"I think they're going to try to stick to it a little bit more. I don't mind it. It's like impossible to cheat now in faceoffs. But some guys, it's kind of a skill to be able to cheat in faceoffs. I don't know, I think they're going to stick to it, and if they do, it's good. Guys are going to be not trying to cheat because you want to stay in the faceoff dot. We'll see what happens."

- Claude Giroux on refs being stricter in the faceoff circle during preseason

"I had quite a few chances that game. Just being able to jump up in the rush at the right times. You're seeing a lot more in the NHL these days that a lot of the offense is being pushed from D-men getting up in the play and joining the rush and creating chances. That's something I've had as a part in my game all the way through my career. I'm just trying to bring that to this level."

- Travis Sanheim on his goal against the Bruins Thursday

Practice lines and pairings

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek (more on this here).
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Mike Vecchione-Taylor Leier-Oskar Lindblom-Travis Konecny

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald

Current roster breakdown

Forwards (18)
Cole Bardreau (injured)
Sean Couturier
Valtteri Filppula
Claude Giroux
Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton
Jori Lehtera
Taylor Leier
Oskar Lindblom
Colin McDonald (injured)
Nolan Patrick
Michael Raffl
Matt Read
Wayne Simmonds
Mike Vecchione
Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal
Dale Weise

Defensemen (8)
Shayne Gostisbehere
Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg
Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning
Sam Morin
Ivan Provorov
Travis Sanheim

Goalies (3)
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth
Anthony Stolarz (injured)