Flyers expect to 'compete like crazy' in star's absence
VOORHEES, N.J. -- How do the Philadelphia Flyers replace the League's leading scorer in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs?
It's a similar question to the one the Pittsburgh Penguins asked themselves prior to Game 4 of their first-round series against the Flyers, when they had to weather the loss of top-line force James Neal; and the one the New Jersey Devils had to ask themselves heading into Game 2 of this series, when they had to survive the injury absence of star forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
Both times, those teams rallied around their missing star for victories. With their season on the line heading into Game 5 against the Devils on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CBC), the Flyers know they have to do the same thing.
Giroux, who leads all playoff performers in goals, assists, points, power-play goals and shorthanded goals, was suspended for one game for his hit to the head of New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus in Game 4 on Sunday.
However, the mood in the Philadelphia locker room after practice Tuesday was about moving forward with who is in the lineup, not worrying about who isn't.
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By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer Dainius Zubrus scored a pair of goals -- including the decisive goal late in the second period -- and a suffocating defense did the rest as the New Jersey Devils scored a 4-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal on Sunday at Prudential Center.READ MORE ›
"He's been our best player the whole year, but he's not there," Kimmo Timonen said. "Same thing goes when Prongs [Chris Pronger] got hurt. He's not here. It's not about Giroux tonight, it's about us. We have to go out there and play as a team. Hopefully we get a win and get him back, but everybody has to realize here it's not about him today. It's about us."
Filling in that blank won't be easy. Not only does Giroux center the top line at even strength, he's the top center on the first power-play and penalty-kill unit, and is the player coach Peter Laviolette turns to in all crucial situations -- up a goal or down a goal in the last minute of a game or period.
"I expect our guys will go out and compete like crazy," Laviolette said. "I expect big games from a lot of players -- all of our players, to be honest. Everybody's going to have to chip in in different ways and pick up a little bit of the slack. I have a lot of confidence we can do that."
How the lineup changes without Giroux won't be known until game-time, as Laviolette routinely refuses all roster-related questions. It's likely Zac Rinaldo returns to the lineup for the first time since Game 4 of the first round against Pittsburgh, as he came off the ice with the rest of the regulars at the end of the morning skate, but it's highly unlikely he has the same kind of impact on the game as Giroux would.
However, losing Giroux could be the emotional spark this Philadelphia team has been looking for, especially in three straight losses that have seen their once-potent offense almost completely shut down.
"I don't think it'll hurt," Scott Hartnell said of the extra emotion. "Obviously we're going to miss [Giroux] on the power play, penalty killing, five-on-five -- he makes special plays happen. You've got to think … you can't look at him for the success tonight or for him to go out and get three goals. You've got to look in the mirror, look at yourself, and do what you do best to go out there and perform. If everyone just plays their heart out tonight and has the best effort they possibly can, we're going to come out victorious."
Wayne Simmonds said the way Giroux starred for the team this season, he feels it's the rest of the team's responsibility to win Game 5 for Giroux.
"[Giroux] has been unbelievable for us all year," he said. "We owe it to him to get him at least one more game."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK