- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Philadelphia Flyers‘ season has featured plenty of black and blue to go along with their trademark orange. They’ve endured injuries to captain Chris Pronger and top-line forwards Jaromir Jagr and James van Riemsdyk plus a collection of others but are still leading the Eastern Conference going into Tuesday night’s game at the Washington Capitals.

On Tuesday morning, the team announced that leading scorer and likely NHL MVP front-runner Claude Giroux was out indefinitely with a concussion. But just like every other time, the Flyers don’t expect to miss a beat.

“We don’t see here and look for a crutch or a hole and think we’re going to sit back on it,” veteran tough guy Jody Shelley said. “We got guys here that make guys better.”

Giroux is not just the Flyers‘ top player but leads the league with 39 points. He seemed a sure bet to make a second straight All-Star Game appearance before taking a knee to the head from teammate Wayne Simmonds in a scary collision Saturday night.

General manager Paul Holmgren kept saying the 23-year-old center would be evaluated each day, but Tuesday brought bad news.

Claude reported not feeling very good today,” Holmgren said in a text message shown to reporters at Verizon Center. “Over the past few days his symptoms have gradually gotten worse.”

With concussions such a sensitive issue in the NHL today, especially with Sidney Crosby out indefinitely again after feeling symptoms return, it’s no surprise the Flyers are taking a cautious approach with Giroux.

He already didn’t travel with the team to D.C., but now there is no timetable for his return to the lineup. At least for the time being Shelley takes Giroux’s spot in the lineup and rookie Sean Couturier moves up to center the top line. Increased scoring is expected to come from the likes of Jagr, van Riemsdyk, Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell.

“When he goes out we look for the veteran players like Danny to step in and we also look at the young players like Matt Read or Sean Couturier to pick up the slack,” coach Peter Laviolette said.

Pronger hasn’t played since Nov. 19 and he’s out indefinitely with a concussion as well. The big defenseman also had knee surgery last month. The Flyers are missing defensemen Erik Gustafsson (wrist) and Andreas Lilja (high ankle sprain), forcing them to rely on rookies Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall.

Giroux’s loss hurts badly, though, considering what he means to Philadelphia.

“Obviously he’s a guy you can’t replace. It’s gonna take a lot of people to step it up and fill the role that he plays,” van Riemsdyk said. “He does everything for us: penalty kill, power play, scores big goals, makes big hits, blocks shots, does it all. So we’re gonna have to kind of step up our game here. Just let him rest and not have to rush him back.”

No matter the injuries, the Flyers are not worried. Instead, they’ve preached resiliency.

“All teams want to have that. All teams wonder what happens when you’re down, what happens when things are bad, what happens when guys are missing,” Shelley said. “The 20 guys that are wearing the Philadelphia Flyers jerseys are representing the organization, and we play one way and we’re going to do it again tonight.”



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