The thing Karl Alzner was most excited about when talking about facing the Philadelphia Flyers was the prospect of facing star center Claude Giroux.
"I know he's having a really good season — a guy that I know pretty well," Alzner said.
A really good season is right — 16 goals, 23 assists for a league-best 39 points. But the Washington Capitals won't have to deal with shutting him down Tuesday night when the Flyers come to town. Giroux took a knee to the head in a collision with teammate Wayne Simmonds on Saturday night and did not make the trip to the District.
It might be a bit of an easier task for the Caps with Giroux out, but count Alzner among the disappointed that the 23-year-old All-Star won't be playing.
"That's too bad," Alzner said.
The dynamic of Caps vs. Flyers changes, but not by much, according to Alzner.
"You've got to focus on all the other 10, 11 guys that are deadly out there on the ice instead of just that guy leading the league," he said. "They've got a lot of dangerous talent out there."
Giroux has been the center of the Flyers' offense — five-on-five and on the power play. And he's a key cog short-handed as the center on the top unit.
"He's their leading scorer and he kills penalties. He's pretty much an all-around player," Caps coach Dale Hunter said. "It's tough on the Flyers losing their best scorer."
Sean Couturier, the No. 8 pick in June's draft, steps in as the No. 1 center after spending time on Philadelphia's fourth line. Others — like Scott Hartnell (14 goals, 12 assists), Jaromir Jagr (10 goals, 14 assists) and Danny Briere (nine goals, 14 assists) — will be counted on to fill the void.
The Flyers are already without captain Chris Pronger, who's suffering from post-concussion symptoms and recovering from knee surgery.
"We missed Chris Pronger for many games," Briere said. "It gave other guys a chance to step up, have more responsibilities, the same way we go about our business."
They're taking the same approach at the forward position as Jody Shelley will likely slide into the lineup and several players accepting larger roles.
"Yes, Claude is a major part of our offense. We have to play without him, we can't sit back and feel sorry for ourselves," Briere said. "That's the last thing that's going to help us. ... We're known as a team that works hard, skates hard. We have to keep doing the same thing."
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