PHILADELPHIA -- A text message from a guy who recently walked in Claude Giroux's shoes helped the Philadelphia Flyers captain rediscover his passion so he could start to break out of his scoring slump.
"It wasn't going right, and I got a nice text from Mike Richards. … I think he gave me a boost to relax and play the game," Giroux told NHL.com on Tuesday prior to playing the Ottawa Senators at Wells Fargo Center. "It's a great game. There's a reason why we play in the NHL. It's because we know what we're doing. It's just about going back to basics, going out there, have fun, play the game."
Giroux couldn't remember exactly when he got that text from Richards, the former Flyers captain who is now playing for the Los Angeles Kings. He said it was a couple of weeks ago, well before he scored his first goal of the season against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 9.
He also wouldn't reveal what Richards wrote in that text message, but it was enough to lift Giroux's spirits and get him pointed in the right direction.
Giroux has five points (two goals) the past five games. Not coincidentally, the Flyers are 4-0-1 in those games.
"It's easy for people to be like, 'Just go and score a goal,'" Giroux said. "To hear it [from Richards], it kind of made me just relax and think about how I'm lucky enough to play this game for a living. I'm in one of the great organizations and we have fans that cheer their heart out. Just looking at the position I'm in now, I feel really lucky, and it just makes me more motivated to play better."
Giroux knows he was not playing well. He had no points through the first five games and only seven assists through the first 15 games. He was feeling the pressure, especially after a 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Nov. 1, when he was seen outside the Flyers' dressing room having an animated conversation with team owner Ed Snider.
"I take things really personal when I don't play well, and I'll be the first one to be hard on myself," Giroux said. "It was my game. I was aware that I wasn't playing well. I was disappointed in my game, knowing I could play better."
The Flyers were losing, and Giroux wasn't scoring. It was a toxic mix.
"If he would have had two goals in the first few games, there would be things he'd do differently around the net, but when you don't score and the team is losing, you put pressure on yourself, especially him," Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek told NHL.com. "He's a hardworking guy and he's a winner, so when things don't go well, he put a lot of pressure on himself. I think that was his biggest problem."
The pressure isn't off now that Giroux is feeling better about his game. It's never off in Philadelphia, especially with the Flyers still trying to claw back into a playoff spot after an abysmal start that cost coach Peter Laviolette his job.
"Fans care," Giroux said. "Fans want to win. If they didn't care about winning, that wouldn't be as fun."
Giroux, though, is trying to embrace the fun after not having any of it for too long. He's smiling more. He enjoys being around the rink the way he did a few years ago, when the Flyers were a playoff team and he was almost a 100-point player, the guy Laviolette called "the best player in the world."
Sure, it helps that the Flyers have started to win a few games, but for Giroux, the credit for his attitude adjustment goes to Richards, one of the few guys in the world who could feel his pain.
"I talk to him once in a while, but yeah, obviously he played here; he was captain," Giroux said. "It was nice for him to reach out and talk to me a little bit."
Turris still benefitting from Spezza's injury
Nobody around the Ottawa Senators wanted to see center Jason Spezza go down five games into last season with a back injury that cost him the next 45 games, including two in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In hindsight, though, Spezza's injury might have been the best thing to happen to center Kyle Turris.
Spezza's injury forced Turris to play first-line minutes against the best defensive forwards and top defense pairs. He had an up-and-down season, but still finished with 29 points in 48 games.
"It changed my career," Turris told NHL.com. "There are lessons I learned from that last season that I may never have learned."
Spezza is healthy and playing more than 19 minutes per game for the Senators, so Turris doesn't have to face guys like Zdeno Chara and Dion Phaneuf on a regular basis, but those lessons from last season have helped him get off to a hot start this season.
Turris has 19 points (one more than Spezza) and a plus-8 rating in 21 games. Turris was actually playing 16 seconds more per game than Spezza prior to the game Tuesday because of his bigger role on the penalty kill.
"Having Chara hopping over the boards every time you go out last year, and now seeing that happen to Spezza just a few days ago, makes me realize I have to help him out," Turris said. "I have to take advantage of the opportunities I get against the people I get [to play against]. Hopefully, it takes a little bit of the heat and attention off of Spezz so it'll give him more room and more opportunity because there's not much space for him."
Kings skaters uncovering Scrivens' best attributes
The trust between Kings goalie Ben Scrivens and his teammates started to develop before Scrivens posted back-to-back shutouts and three wins overall in the New York area last Thursday through Sunday.
"A new guy coming to a team, it might take a little bit of time to get some confidence in him, but he stepped in right from the first game he played [against the Florida Panthers] and got that shutout," Richards told NHL.com. "That helped. Confidence works both ways."
Scrivens made 20 saves in a 3-0 win against the Panthers on Oct. 13. It was also right around that time when Kings skaters started to realize that one of Scrivens' strengths is how he handles the puck and helps the breakout.
"When you haven't played a whole heck of a lot with each other, you're trying to work on communicating with one another as best you can about what you like to do," Regehr said. "Everyone has tendencies on what they like and what they don't like. That's probably the biggest adjustment right now, but it really helps a lot if he can come out and play the puck."
Jets finding 'will to win' in the third
If the Winnipeg Jets played as well in the first 40 minutes of the game as they do in the final 20, they might be in a playoff position right now. Then again, imagine where the Jets would be if they weren't among the League's best third-period teams this season?
The Jets are sixth in the Central Division with 23 points in part because they have scored 25 goals in the third period, tied for second most in the NHL.
In the 13 games in which the Jets have gained at least a point, including 10 wins, they've outscored the opposition 18-8 in the third period. They have scored at least one goal in the third period in six straight games and are 5-0-1 in those games.
"I can't completely identify it because if I could, I'd have it for 60 minutes and not only the third," Jets coach Claude Noel told NHL.com. "One of the things I sense is we don't lose hope even though we're down, if that's the case. Our will to win and succeed is real good, and it's led by Andrew Ladd. He's the one that leads us in a lot of ways, but he leads with his will."
Noel said the key is to get his team to play with the understanding that the first 40 minutes are just as important as the final 20. It's a work in progress and staying patient is the key.
"It's a constant build," Noel said. "It's almost like a maturing process that we're trying to expedite, but if we could expedite it, we'd all do it. We're trying to get the most out of our team, but we're trying to build a process of winning, of practicing, of existing that we can call our foundation that leads us to get over the line, not near the line. You would like to have it come a lot sooner than it does, but you have to go through it. There is no manual. It's like parenting."
Zajac in comfort zone playing with Jagr
"He swings a lot," Elias told NHL.com on Oct. 29. "If he plays with some other guys here and has to play just up-and-down hockey, he would skate into them all the time."
Well, Devils center Travis Zajac, a guy who plays an up-and-down game but can be creative in the offensive zone, is working just fine with Jagr too. Zajac has been Jagr's center for the past four games and feels he's been at his best this season with No. 68 on his right side because it's forcing him to be ready for the puck at all times and to expect it when he should least expect to get it.
Zajac has a goal, two assists and a plus-7 rating since he's started to center Jagr and Dainius Zubrus on a regular basis. He had an assist and was a plus-4 in New Jersey's 4-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. He had three points and was a minus-5 in his previous 14 games.
"I'm actually playing more of the game I want to play with him, a puck-possession game," Zajac told NHL.com. "We're big guys, we're heavy on pucks, we win a lot of battles. For me, that's where I'm good, going to the net, give-and-goes. I would say I'm more in my comfort zone. I'm good when I'm skating, over the puck and aggressive. I think that's been the best part of my game the past few weeks."
This and that
Voracek said he used to be able to score on Mason when they played together in Columbus. But now?
"I can't score on him in practice," he told NHL.com. "It's crazy. It's crazy."
Voracek said Mason hasn't changed anything about his personality.
"He's exactly the same guy," he said. "In Columbus, it was tough for him because everybody was expecting so many things after he won his Calder [Trophy]. Here, when he got traded, he got that fresh start, that reset in his mind, and he knew it too. He knew if he played well he could be one of the best goaltenders in the League. He's got some of the best numbers in the League now. It's funny how that happens."
* One thing Bobby Ryan appreciates about playing for the Senators is the media attention. It's not that he's an attention seeker, but he likes the fact that in Ottawa the Senators are the No. 1 team and there is a certain responsibility that comes with that.
"It's nice to be held accountable," Ryan said. "When you're not performing and you have to answer questions, that all comes with it. I think it motivates you."
* Jets center Bryan Little has 12 goals on 50 shots. It's the fewest amount of shots on goal among the 20 players who had at least 10 goals entering Tuesday. Asked if he'd like to see Little shoot more, Noel basically said no.
"I wouldn't sit here and say to Bryan Little that he needs to shoot more," Noel said. "Would I like him to shoot more? I think he's intelligent. He's a good distributor. He shoots when he needs to shoot. I would never say he passes up shots.
"The fact that he's scoring now and having success, that speaks volumes because he does things every day the right way," Noel also said. "Now he's getting rewarded for it, but he hasn't changed anything."
"It always seems like when you have one or two, you have people playing more and more, and you're more prone to injuries. Obviously, you don't want to get hurt ever, so I don't know if you're a little more careful, but you try not to be because that will change the goal of the game. You'll stop having success if you shy away from hits and stop putting yourself in the area where you need to be to score goals. It's a tough scenario, but you need to keep playing."
"I didn't want to believe it [would take a while], but we understood that for us to get on the same page, it would be a lot of work. We did put those hours in, a lot of video. Slowly, you can see guys get comfortable. They know where to go on the ice. When it's going to be automatic, that's when we're going to be a dangerous team."
The Panthers are reacting well to Peter Horachek but does the roster need new talent to be a serious contender? -- @mikelaybourne
Yes, the Florida Panthers' roster needs more talent. There is no question about it. Some of that talent is already in the organization. Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Erik Gudbranson are guys the Panthers may be able to build around. You might want to toss Dmitry Kulikov into that mix as well. Those guys are still too young to be relied upon to be consistent top-end players on a nightly basis. The Panthers need to upgrade their veteran depth. It's not easy though. Florida's history and current roster precludes it from being a destination spot for free agents.
Sheesh, tough crowd. Scrivens was just named the NHL's First Star of the Week. You'd think that would buy him some time from speculation. But I understand your question because Scrivens doesn't have the track record as a goalie who can help carry a team for a long stretch. Miller probably would be inclined to go to the Kings since his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf, spends most of her time in Los Angeles. However, Quick will be back this season, so a trade for Miller doesn't make much sense.
What help would John-Michael Liles be to the Hurricanes, who already keep eight defensemen on their roster and have no forward depth? -- @dshort_0610
You're referencing the recent report from TSN's Darren Dreger that Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford has talked about Liles with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Liles would be an upgrade because of his offensive ability. The Hurricanes are near the bottom of the League in goals and power-play percentage. They want a puck-moving defenseman. They need a puck-moving defenseman. There is no deal yet, and it may be because the price for Liles right now is too high.
What does it say about realignment when the top spot in the East wouldn't even make the playoffs in the West? -- @MLHS_Mike
I don't think it says anything about realignment. The only teams to move were the Winnipeg Jets, Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jets moved to the Western Conference and they have been good of late, but they're not the reason the West is best this season. The League went with a geographic alignment for the divisions and conferences this season, but the West has been better for several years. It's more pronounced now.
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