Giroux feels 'lucky' to have good veterans around

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Giroux feels 'lucky' to have good veterans around

The best way for former captains to really get to know present captains, Mark Streit says, is in a quiet setting.

Such might be the future meal for one Claude Giroux as he begins his first full season as the Flyers’ captain.

“We’re going to go out to dinner on the road somewhere and we’ll talk,” Streit said. “There’s an awful lot of experience in this dressing room to support him.”

You can debate it as much as you want whether having multiple ex-captains is good or bad on a hockey club. Every season, the Flyers seem to have several former captains who also sit on the club’s leadership group.

This season is no different with the addition of Streit and Vinny Lecavalier, joining Kimmo Timonen to act as a sounding board for Giroux, who seemed at ease in camp with his team.

Last year was an enormous challenge to the 25-year-old Giroux.

In the lockout-shortened season, a plethora of injuries that smacked the club early and often, and the Flyers’ overall bad start doomed them given every game was against teams in their own conference, when every loss represented points against you without inter-conference play to draw even.

“Claude did a terrific job last year as captain of this team in a difficult situation,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s not easy when you’re not finding the success you want, especially in a city like Philadelphia where there is an expectation to be successful.

“For a young captain, that can be a stressful situation. I think he did an amazing job. And I am not just saying that. The way he handled himself and handled this team, that is growing leadership.

“And the leadership we had in the room is a tremendous strength and support for him. When you add guys like Mark Streit and Vinny Lecavalier, and even Ray Emery, who is older now and won a Stanley Cup … you start to build a nice leadership group. That can only help Claude.”

Streit captained the Islanders and Lecavalier was a captain in Tampa Bay.

“He’s got a lot of leadership qualities,” Lecavalier said. “He’s the captain and our leader, but he has Mark Streit, who has been a captain and been around. I’ve been around a few years as well. We’re all gonna help each other to push each other and make decisions.”

Players say Giroux is still the happy-go-lucky guy he was as a rookie, long before he got a letter on his sweater.

“Any time they can help, doesn’t matter if you have a letter on your jersey or not, it’s what you can do on the ice which speaks for itself,” Giroux said. “They have been captains before. They know what to say, how to act and those are guys I will be leaning toward.”

Keith Primeau used to say the only way a captain can grow in his role is to endure some adversity along with success. Giroux already had his share of the bad.

“His job and how he handled things in a tough year, he will continue to learn from the goods and the bads of being a captain,” Laviolette said.

“I can tell you as a coach, you don’t just learn from the good times. You learn a lot more from the bad times where you have to dig in and look have to work and figure. The same thing can be said for a captain as well.”

Giroux agrees.

“You learn from what you do,” Giroux said. “You start thinking of how you should do things. You learn from it. I’ve been lucky to have good veterans [around me] at the start of my career and I’m still learning, every practice, every time I go on the ice.”

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).

Flyers' outdoor game vs. Pens different because of football stadium

Flyers' outdoor game vs. Pens different because of football stadium

VOORHEES, N.J. -- He grew up as a youngster in Judique, Nova Scotia, as a Toronto Blue Jays fan even though the Boston Red Sox were closer geographically.

“My brother was the Red Sox fan,” Andrew MacDonald said.

While hockey was his passion, MacDonald loved to watch baseball. Joe Carter’s walk-off home run in the 1993 World Series clinched it for Mac, then a 7-year-old.

“Didn’t see it for a while though because we only had two TV channels,” MacDonald laughed.

“Yeah, I was Blue Jays fan from Canada.”

On Saturday, the Flyers visit Heinz Field for an outdoor game against their most bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Stadium Series.

MacDonald was a starter for the Islanders during the 2014 Stadium Series game held at the new Yankee Stadium against the Rangers. He likes outdoor games in baseball stadiums even though that is not where this game will take place.

“When I had been to New York, I had gone to a few Yankee games at Yankee Stadium,” MacDonald said Thursday after practice. “Obviously, I got to take in the experience of being a fan there. It’s a pretty great stadium. To be on the field, although it’s a different sport and setting, it was pretty special.”

Michal Neuvirth was the backup goalie for Washington in the 2011 Winter Classic held at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

“It’s just as big as if you played inside for two points,” Neuvirth said. “I just backed up that game there but it was awesome. The big crowd and we won the game with Washington. A good feeling afterward.”

MacDonald said his experience at Yankee Stadium was similar.

“It was great,” he said of the Bronx affair. “Not everyone gets to play in one of those games, so it was special. Just being in that outdoor environment and the capacity of the crowd. Really like a center stage, special experience.”

In both previous Winter Classics involving the Flyers, they were held in baseball stadiums -- Fenway Park in 2010 and Citizens Bank Park two years later. Incidentally, Claude Giroux is the only Flyer to have played in both of the franchise's two Winter Classics.

This “Stadium Series” game will offer a different “look” for players and fans because it occurs in the Steelers’ football stadium.

“Obviously, the setup of the ice surface will be right in the middle of the field as a rectangular field as opposed to baseball where it’s kind of on a different angle,” MacDonald said.

“It’s good. We’ll get a good skate in. A family skate. Yeah, I hope [weather cooperates]. It might not be the best ice, but hopefully, it goes according to plan and go off without a hitch.”

Hot temperatures Friday followed by heavy rain on Saturday could make things difficult.

“Tough to say as to what to expect,” said Neuvirth, who will start in goal. “For me, I am going to prepare myself for 8 o’clock and play my game.”

The most unusual thing that players say affect them during outdoor games is not having fans on the glass. They’re far away in the stands.

Yet in a baseball stadium, some of those fans are a lot closer to the ice than the setup in a football stadium.

“Yeah, it was kind of unique and took a while to get used to,” MacDonald said. “There’s no fans on the glass. You are kind of isolated by yourself there on the middle of the field.

“It’s not until the TV timeout where you can look around and take it all in. It's almost a practice-type mentality when you are first on the ice and then you get acclimated.

“Obviously, once the puck drops you are ready to go and know what to do. It’s definitely a unique experience once you get going.”

When he played at Fenway Park as a freshman at Union College, Shayne Gostisbehere said his only regret was not taking time out to just stop and absorb what was happening around him.

He was so focused on the game against Harvard that day in 2012, he forgot to cherish the moment.

MacDonald said that is something NHL players sometimes forget to do, as well. Take it all in because it might never occur again.

“Everyone is a little different,” he said. “You do have to play it as if it’s like every other game. There is a little adjustment period there with the fans so far away.

“That being said, you have an opportunity to embrace the moment. At the same time, you have to focus on what we’re trying to accomplish out there. Try to get the win like any other time.”

Loose pucks
• Flyers forward Jakub Voracek left the ice early Thursday with a slight limp. He was not available after practice but general manager Ron Hextall confirmed Voracek is fine and will play Saturday. The Flyers' leading scorer was hit with a deflected puck earlier this week in practice in his groin area but played without incident during Wednesday's game against Washington. 

• The Flyers left for Pittsburgh this afternoon.