The shorthanded Flyers received a considerable boost at practice on Tuesday as captain and left-winger Claude Giroux returned to the ice after completing the league-mandated 14-day program.
Giroux tested positive for COVID-19 on Feb. 9 — one of as many as nine Flyers who were were on the league’s coronavirus list and forced out of action.
“For a few days there, I had it pretty bad,” Giroux said Tuesday afternoon via Zoom. “But after three, four days, I felt pretty good and I feel great now.”
He looked the part, too.
“He certainly looked pumped up to be back out there with us,” forward James van Riemsdyk added.
Giroux last appeared for the Flyers on Feb. 7 against the Washington Capitals before the outbreak prompted an 11-day layoff that included two games being postponed.
They returned to action on Feb. 18, losing to the New York Rangers in a shootout. Just three days later, they were in Nevada playing at Lake Taho for an outdoor game against the Boston Bruins where they were thoroughly thrashed 7-3.
It wasn’t a good feeling for Giroux to watch his team from the couch.
“I don’t remember the last time I watched the Flyers play at home,” Giroux said. “It wasn’t that fun. You want to be out there and help the team.”
Giroux’s return further indicates that the Flyers are moving in the right direction after the unsettling run-in with COVID-19 that forced the NHL to postpone over 40 games during a two-week span earlier this month.
Now, the captain is expected to play for the first time in over two weeks on Wednesday night against the Rangers at Wells Fargo Center. He should slot in on the left side of the second line alongside Kevin Hayes and Nolan Patrick.
“I feel good, practice today was good, it was a good pace. To get back on the ice, it was fun,” Giroux said. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen my teammates. Today it felt like the first day of camp or something. So today was a good day.”
The Flyers are not out of the woods yet, obviously. Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, and Justin Braun did not participate in practice on Tuesday as they look to complete the league’s COVID protocols. They remained on the league’s list as recently as Monday night.
Braun should be returning to practice on Wednesday, but he won’t participate in the game later that night against New York. He was was sent to the NHL’s COVID list the same day as Giroux.
Giroux has one goal and 10 assists in 13 games this year as the Flyers currently possess the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. However, they have played three fewer games than the third-place Islanders, who are just two points ahead of them, and two fewer games than the second-place Washington Capitals, who are ahead of New York only on point-percentage.