The Pittsburgh Penguins have maintained their place among the NHL’s elite despite injuries to various players (obviously including Sidney Crosby). That’s a great story, but the Philadelphia Flyers don’t really care – and they’re developing a fantastic one of their own.
Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr are making great music together so far in 2011-12, something that was evident in a 5-3 win that pushed the Flyers into a tie with the Pens for the Atlantic Division lead. Both teams are locked in at 10-4-3 records for 23 points in 17 games, although the Penguins have more home games left over.
Giroux scored two goals and added an assist to push his points total to 22 while Jagr notched two helpers to give him a point-per-game (17 in 17 contests). The many people (myself included) who snickered at Jagr’s $3.3 million price tag are eating a hearty helping of crow right about now.
Let there be no doubt that Giroux is the driving force in that duo, but Jagr’s experience and skills are melding well with the talented young center’s brilliant abilities. (Jagr told Sam Carchidi that he’s essentially doing his impression of what Ron Francis once did for him.)
The Flyers have a lot of good things going. Ilya Bryzgalov’s back to form, Chris Pronger is reasonably healthy and role players like Maxime Talbot are producing nicely. Still, Giroux and Jagr are the driving force right now, as you can see from the game highlights.
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As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.
In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.
And then Stamkos took the warmup.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.
EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.
Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.
Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.
Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.