Giroux's growth as leader has Flyers on a roll

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Giroux's growth as leader has Flyers on a roll

No one has ever accused Claude Giroux of having such an influence on teammates that he might be hockey’s version of Joe Carroll on “The Following.”

Then again, Scott Hartnell suggested on Wednesday that the Flyers' captain actually does have enormous influence.

“The way he plays, he can probably say whatever he wants,” Hartnell said. “I’ll follow him to the Ben Franklin Bridge and jump off if he will lead the way. He’s just got a presence about him, I think.

“Maybe more so now than even last year when he got the captaincy. He’s just a great guy. You talk to him for five minutes and you just love his energy. He’s got great energy. It just flows through everybody.”

Giroux, the hottest player in the NHL since Dec. 11 (51 points), is fourth in the league in scoring and has had a profound effect on the Flyers in the second half.

Several players and even Flyers coach Craig Berube have remarked this week that the 26-year-old from Hearst, Ont., is much more of a vocal captain now than he was in his first season last year.

Asked about Giroux’s growth as a captain, Berube said, “Big time -- just in leadership. He leads on the ice. He goes out there and works hard … He leads in practice and in the game in his skating. People follow.”

The last vocal captain the Flyers had was obviously Chris Pronger. Back in March of 2011 when Pronger was still playing, he chewed out Giroux in the dressing room after a 4-1 win over Edmonton in which he felt certain players were slacking in small details.

It makes you wonder how much of Pronger’s vocal authority Giroux has picked up on. One thing seems certain: Giroux handles things differently than Pronger. Interestingly, Giroux often now refers to “details” in how the Flyers play.

While Giroux never appreciated how Pronger delivered his message, he obviously understood the message itself. Details are no longer overlooked.

“I think Prongs made everybody accountable for everything you did,” Hartnell said. “You turn the puck over in the first period of a game, he wasn’t a guy to not say anything about it, not make you feel bad that you screwed up.

“I wouldn’t say G is like that, but guys want to be accountable to him. Maybe not as vocal as Prongs. But when I’m playing with G, I want to be the best I can be every night, get him the puck, go to the net -- things are happening with our line.

“It’s good to have that fear. It’s tough to let a guy like that down. It’s definitely fun to play with a guy like that.”

Hartnell says Giroux is even more vocal on the team’s private chartered plane -- in a funny way.

“I think the first few years, the language, making fun of the way he talked,” Hartnell said of teammates getting on Giroux. “He’s really grown in … he feels more comfortable with himself, speaking English and whatnot.

“I remember the odd time on the plane when he asked the flight attendant for some ‘fruits.’ And I was like, ‘No, it’s just fruit.’ So we laughed about little things like that.

“Around the dressing room he’s been vocal, but he’s been the guy making the plays to happen and guys follow suit with that, and that’s what you want in a leader.”

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Washington

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Washington

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jordan Weal participated in the Flyers' full practice Tuesday at Skate Zone but will remain out of the lineup against Washington on Wednesday with an apparent concussion.

He was nailed in Edmonton by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba. The hit in the corner came at 13:57 of the opening period.

Video replays show Gryba sandwiched Weal hard on the boards with Weal striking his head and right shoulder, then falling to the ice. Actually, Gryba hit him earlier in the period as well, but it was the second hit that seemed to go the most damage. 

Weal said both he and trainer Jim McCrossin agreed it was better to not return to the game after the second hit.

“He kind of drove me in pretty good there,” Weal said. “It’s a hockey play, though. Not much you can do.” 

The Flyers are being cautious with the head injury.

Coach Dave Hakstol was vague as to when Weal would re-enter the lineup. Weal had just been called up last week to replace Travis Konecny, who was placed on IR.

“I feel good,” said Weal, who took extra practice on Tuesday. “It definitely has been progressing every day. ... I’m day-to-day and as soon as I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go.

“It’s one of those injuries you just have to take your time with. I think when I feel I’m ready to play, I’ll be in.

“It’s frustrating. But it’s part of the game. With these injuries, it’s tougher than if it was, say your finger or your shin or something where you could put ice on it and get it better. You just have to treat it right and get back as quick as I can.”

Gudas’ departure
Defenseman Radko Gudas left early during what was a brief but long-delayed 45-minute practice on Tuesday.

What was noteworthy about Gudas’ departure, however, was that he picked up his gear and headed back to the dressing room while both trainers remained on the bench.

So he wasn’t injured.

Immediate speculation was that he might have been traded. An hour later, general manager Ron Hextall announced Gudas had had a dentist appointment to fix a broken tooth, incurred during the recent road trip.

Needless to say, Gudas’ leaving blew up Twitter with trade rumors.

Lower, lower body
Jake Voracek took a shot below the belt and couldn't stand for a few minutes near the end of practice. He remained in obvious pain in the dressing room and did not talk … as if he could. 

Michael Del Zotto on trade watch as NHL deadline nears

Michael Del Zotto on trade watch as NHL deadline nears

VOORHEES, N.J. — Michael Del Zotto knows the score.

With the NHL trade deadline just a week away, this can be a very uncomfortable time of year for an unrestricted free-agent-to-be.

Players who are expecting a pay day on a club where there are at least two or three younger and far less expensive rookies anticipating a promotion, know what that implies.

They’re on trade watch.

“It happens every year,” Del Zotto said. “It’s not like it’s the first time. I’ve been traded before. It is what it is. It’s a business.

“You realize that pretty early in your career. I understand where I’m at as far as my contract, being a UFA this summer.

“Same thing with taking each game one day at a time. You take each day one day at a time. Go home, make dinner, get ready for tomorrow and whatever happens, happens.”

The 26-year-old Del Zotto was traded in 2013-14 from the New York Rangers to Nashville. That trade occurred in January, well before the deadline, during a season after which he was about to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time.

That same summer, Del Zotto signed a one-year deal with the Flyers for $1.3 million. His current deal pays him $3.875 million. He’d have to take a pay cut to stay here given the long line of prospects ready to step in at a first-year NHL salary and that fact he has struggled defensively this season.

Del Zotto averages 19:23 ice time. He has 10 points in 32 games and is second among Flyers defensemen with 113 hits. He’s missed a total of 22 games this season with two different injuries, one to his left knee, the other to his left leg.

If you had a chart ranking of Flyers likely to be dealt at next Wednesday’s deadline, Del Zotto would be No. 1, with Mark Streit and one of the Flyers’ two goalies right behind him.

If possible, general manager Ron Hextall would like to add draft picks at the deadline.

“It’s a business and these things are out of your control,” Del Zotto said.

When he was traded to Nashville a few years ago, Del Zotto said he saw it coming.

“Anytime it does happen, and for the first time, it hits you hard,” he said. “Being in New York, I had my brother and wife living with me, it made it extra tough. With our schedule being tough, you don’t get to see them very often, but with them living with me, it was pretty special.

“That’s what hurt the most. Leaving my family. I decided, it’s a business and you never know when it can or can’t happen ...”

The line behind him in Philadelphia includes Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, etc.  

Del Zotto laughed and admitted he’s aware of those waiting.

“That’s the part of the game that is out of my control,” he said. “That is why you have the GM and coaching staff. To make those decisions. My job is to come into work every day, give everything you have.

“That’s one thing. I can always look myself in the mirror. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I give everything I have every day. At the end of the day, if I can look myself in the mirror, I’m happy. That’s all I can control.”

The Flyers host Washington on Wednesday before going to Pittsburgh for their Stadium Series outdoor game this weekend.

"[Those] are huge four-point games for us," he said. "We can't overlook that. We know where we are in the standings."