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Gagne: Giroux brings back memories of Forsberg

by Adam Kimelman
Simon Gagne had a bit of a flashback watching Claude Giroux throw the game-winning cross-ice pass to Chris Pronger against Chicago on Saturday.
As Giroux flipped a picture-perfect saucer pass over two Blackhawks defenders that landed flat on Pronger's blade for an easy deposit into the Chicago net with 2.1 seconds left in what became a 3-2 Flyers victory, Gagne was reminded of a former linemate.
"Maybe it's too early to make some comparisons with Peter Forsberg," Gagne told, "but I did play with Peter and he (Giroux) has pretty much the same style."
Gagne is right -- it's way too soon to compare Giroux, the Flyers' second-year center, to a likely Hall of Famer like Forsberg.
"It's a great comparison," Giroux told, "but I don't think I'm there, not even close."
He's right, but the 22-year-old has magic hands, brilliant vision and poise far beyond his years, all of which was on display Saturday against the Blackhawks.
"I think that showcases his ability and his skill," Pronger said of the set-up for the winning goal. "I think (Giroux) saw me early on when I was crossing the blue line, that I was going wide. He was trying to get it somewhere near me where I can whack at it toward the net. He made a great pass, it landed flat and I was able to get it up over his pad."
"That takes a lot of guts," Gagne said of Giroux's play. "I thought he was going to give it to Cartsy (Jeff Carter). Cartsy was open for a one-timer, but to make a saucer pass over three sticks, through the goalie and right to Prongs, it just showed a confidence that he's got when he's got the puck."
In his first full NHL season, Giroux entered Sunday's game against the New York Rangers fourth on the team with 14 goals and 27 assists and fifth with 41 points. A 2006 first-round pick (No. 22), there were glimpses of how good he could be last season when he had 27 points in 42 regular-season games after being called up from the AHL, and then he tied for the team lead in the playoffs with 5 points in six games.
This season, he's been with the big club since Day 1, and has more than earned his spot.
"Obviously when you play more you get more comfortable out there," Giroux told "I'm just trying to make some plays out there."
He's certainly made his share of them. Giroux has helped James van Riemsdyk spend most of the season among the rookie scoring leaders, helped Arron Asham turn into a scoring threat, and it's no surprise that playing with Giroux helped Scott Hartnell have arguably his best game of the season Saturday against Chicago. Hartnell scored the game-tying goal and had a team-high four shots.
"He's a pretty easy player to play with," Hartnell said. "You give him the puck and try to get open."
Giroux downplays the fact that it might not be too long before playing on his line is akin to winning the hockey lottery -- similar to how players who got to skate with Forsberg felt.
"Any player you play with on this team, they've got skill, they work hard," he said. "Doesn't matter who I play with, they can make plays. … You play with Hartnell or Ash, they're pretty good linemates."
Coach Peter Laviolette has been around for only about half a season, but he didn't need long to realize Giroux is a player he can count on. That's why he had no problem putting Giroux on the ice in the final seconds of a tie game against one of the best teams in the League.
"I think Claude is a gifted person," said Laviolette. "That's why he's on the power play, why he plays in those situations. He's very capable. Everyone has their strengths and I think his is his ability to find people and make those plays, and he's made plenty of those plays this year."
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