After what seemed like a never-ending battle, Philadelphia Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux finally returned to practice Tuesday after dealing with COVID-19 for the past two weeks. Giroux was placed on the COVID protocol list on Feb. 9 after testing positive for COVID, and he has not played a game since February 7 against the Washington Capitals, where the Flyers dominated the Caps 7-4.
The Road to a Return to Play
Giroux, an important part of the Flyers’ lineup, has been missed greatly during his absence, but it was not an easy absence to take for the 14-day period. Sitting out a minimum of 14 days due to league protocol was tough on Giroux, but he is glad to be back with the team and feeling much better.
“For a few days there, I had it pretty bad,” Giroux said during a recent press interview. “But after three, four days, I felt pretty good and I feel great now. I feel good, practice today was good, it was good pace,” he said. “To get back on the ice, it was fun. 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.”
Flyers’ head coach Alain Vigneault made the decision that Giroux will return to the lineup for Wednesday games against the New York Rangers. Vigneault paired him with Kevin Hayes and Nolan Patrick during Tuesday’s practice, which is a different combination than usual but is hoping that the pair will provide a spark.
“I wanted to put Nolan on that side to sort of helping him get going a little bit here,” Vigneault said. “He and ‘Hayesy’ are very close, we need Nolan to play better than he has so far. It’s not an easy situation when you’ve missed the amount of time that he has missed, but we need to find a way here to help him and help him find his game. I thought that with Hayesy and that connection, that might help.”
In Wednesday’s return to the ice, Giroux played on a whole new level. In 20:54 TOI, he had eight shots on the net and three assists in a 4-3 Flyers win over the New York Rangers. His performance surprised the team and coaching staff after he had been sitting out for the past two weeks, but they were more than happy to get him back and get the win.
The Ups and Downs of Giroux Career
With this being his 14th season with the Flyers, Giroux has been sort of silent so far this season. With just 11 points over 13 games played this season, he will look to make a strong impact upon his return Wednesday night. Over the past few seasons, he has been consistent but nowhere near where the fans expect him to be. The media and fans have been openly critical of his play over the last couple of years, but especially when there are only 56 games on the schedule. Every single game this season matters, so the importance of having a consistent strong leadership presence is even greater.
One thing that has been consistent regardless of his productivity has been his presence in the lineup. Giroux’s ironman streak of 328 consecutive games played came to an end Thursday night. This marked the first time since April 2016 that he was missing from the Flyers’ lineup. Over the course of being missing from the lineup, the Flyers went 0-1-1 without their captain.
“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.”
With just under 40 games left in the season, the Flyers will look to continue finding success in the least expected places. The Flyers currently boast a 9-4-3 record in one of the toughest divisions this season. Giroux and the Flyers have matchups with the New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabers, and Pittsburgh Penguins coming up over the next week and a half.
At the end of the day, no matter what happened over the last couple of weeks, Giroux was more than happy to return home after spending two weeks away from his family.
It just proves that no matter what happens, family will always be there.