One day before the Flyers play split-squad games against the New York Islanders at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA, and the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, NY, the rosters for Group 1 and Group 2 were similar to Monday's groupings. However, Dave Hakstol took a look at different line combinations, including a notable experiment on the top line.
1. Giroux embraces LW experiment - Flyers captain Claude Giroux was originally drafted as a right winger and spent much of his early NHL career with the Flyers at that position before switching to center during the 2009-10 season. Ever since then, he has played center almost exclusively.
During Tuesday's practice, Giroux played left wing on a line with Sean Couturier. Although they have been teammates since Couturier's rookie season (2011-12), the two have rarely been on the ice at the same time. The third member of the line was Jakub Voracek - Giroux's regular linemate on the Flyers' top line but also someone who has played periodically with Couturier.
The righthanded shooting Giroux, who sets up on the left half wall during Flyers' power plays and is skilled at creating plays from his "off-wing" side of the ice, enjoyed the chance to try out taking line rushes on left wing. He required no convincing beforehand to try it out, immediately and enthusiastically embracing the challenge.
"Off the rush, we did a lot of drills where I was coming down the left side there. I could see the ice pretty good. You have the puck your strong side there [as a righthanded shot]. It was actually a lot of fun. It's not like I'm against it or opposed to it at all. If it makes the team better - we have a lot of centermen - we can do that," Giroux said.
Giroux was unsure if the experiment will carry over into the split-squad lineup on Wednesday or be used in future practices, but said he is intrigued by the idea of seeing if he has chemistry with Couturier and Voracek as a trio. Even if this is not a line that opens the season together, experimenting with it during training camp might eventually give the coaching staff another option to use from time to time.
Giroux noted how the San Jose Sharks have effectively switched off between Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski at center or wing. Hakstol, however, said he's not using other teams' players as a yardstick.
Voracek said that playing with Couturier - a defensively aware north-south player with the positional savvy and physical strength to win battles despite not being the fastest of skaters on the team - entails a little different style of hockey than playing with classic playmaker Giroux in the middle. Both players, however, are strong in the hockey sense department. As such, Voracek believes they can forge line chemistry if they are assembled as a trio.
Hakstol noted that Giroux's wholehearted willingness to change positions - whether or not it becomes a weapon in the lineup arsenal - speaks to the captain's leadership and commitment.
"When your captain is as selfless as 'G' is, he [goes] all in," Hakstol said. "Whatever the role is, he's going to attack it… It's early, but he's had a very high-level camp."