The Captain is back.
Two weeks after entering the NHL’s Covid Protocols, Claude Giroux returned to practice with his Philadelphia Flyers teammates on Tuesday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) February 23, 2021
Giroux has been in isolation since Feb. 9, after he tested positive for the Covid-19 virus during the Flyers’ scheduled two-game road trip to Washington.
“For a few days there, I had it pretty bad but, after three or four days, I felt pretty good,” Giroux told the media after practice on Tuesday. “I feel great now. Practice today was good — a good pace.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve seen my teammates. Today, it felt like the first day of camp or something.”
Those teammates are also probably looking for a bit of a fresh start, after their picturesque experience in Lake Tahoe for the NHL Outdoors weekend ended with a 7-3 loss to the Boston Bruins.
At least they’ll always have the group photo.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) February 21, 2021
Travelling without the six roster regulars who remained on the Covid Protocol list, the shorthanded Flyers got their goals from Joel Farabee, Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk. It was a tough outing for Carter Hart, who gave up six goals on 23 Boston shots before he was pulled by coach Alain Vigneault after 40 minutes.
In 11 appearances so far this season, Hart has given up a total of 38 goals, giving him an .891 save percentage and 3.68 goals-against average. Those numbers are both well below standard he set for himself in his first two NHL seasons, but the Bruins have been his kryptonite. Twenty of those 38 goals have come in Hart’s four games against Boston, an average of 5.32 per game. He has given up just 18 goals total in his other seven starts.
In the NHL’s revamped 56-game schedule this season, the Flyers will play every other team in the East Division eight times. They’re through five games with the Bruins already (0-2-3), and haven’t played any other opponent more than twice.
Fortunately, no further Covid-related shutdowns have occurred in the league since the Flyers got back on the ice last week. The NHL’s latest schedule updated, issued Tuesday, includes some schedule tweaks as well as new dates for the four games that the Flyers missed between Feb. 9 and Feb. 14.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) February 23, 2021
League-wide, all but one game has now been rescheduled. Regular-season play is currently set to wrap up just two days later than originally planned. That will include the Flyers on the last day of the season — hosting the New Jersey Devils on Monday, May 10.
Getting Back To Work
With all the disruption, the Flyers have played just five games in the first 23 days of February. They’ve gone 1-2-2 after starting the truncated season with a 7-2-1 record in January.
They’ll finish out the month with three games in five days. On Wednesday, they host the New York Rangers, before back-to-back matinees in Buffalo on the weekend.
Then, it’s a busy 17 games in 31 nights in March, including two sets of back-to-backs. After this week, the next time they’ll get two days off in a row is April 1-2.
Vigneault said Tuesday that Giroux will be a game-time decision against the Rangers. He took a regular turn at Tuesday’s practice as the coach appeared to be looking at new deployment options up front. That suggests that the plan is for Giroux to play.
Lines at prax today:
Elliott (appears to be the starter)
— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) February 23, 2021
If Vigneault sticks with these combinations, fans will see Nolan Patrick deployed on the wing for the first time this season. The 22-year-old center started the season well after missing all of last year with migraine disorder, but is now pointless in his last eight games.
Also, Carsen Twarynski skated with the main group on Tuesday. He has been part of the taxi squad since the beginning of the season.
Twarynski is out there as well. He had been a no-show last week at practice, and my assumption was that he was in COVID protocol as well. (Taxi squad guys don't have to be actually placed on the list.)
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) February 23, 2021
As of Tuesday, four forwards remain in Covid protocol: Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton and Oskar Lindblom. It sounds like all should be ready to return to action not long after their designated quarantine periods have elapsed.
That’s particularly good news in the case of Lindblom, who was undergoing cancer treatment at this time last year.
AV said that Lindblom had mild symptoms but is feeling fine now. A few days, hopefully, from being ready to return and skate. All remaining players on COVID list are feeling well now.
— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) February 23, 2021
Defenseman Justin Braun is expected to come off the list on Wednesday. It’s believed that he’ll need a handful of practices before he’s ready to return to game action.