Giroux headed to Phantoms?

   Claude Giroux, the hotshot 20-year-old winger who was the Flyers' No. 1 selection in the 2006 NHL draft, seems like he's going to start the season with the AHL Phantoms.

   Flyers head coach John Stevens gave a less-than-glowing report on Giroux's progress in camp.

   “I think Claude has done just OK, to be honest with you,” Stevens said after today's practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. “I think there was a lot of pressure on this kid coming in.”

    Expectations were high after Giroux scored an astounding 51 points _ 17 goals, 34 assists _ in 19 playoff games with his Quebec Junior League team last season.

    A few weeks ago, just prior to the start of the veterans’ training camp on Sept. 20, Giroux had four impacted wisdom teeth extracted and it kept him out of rookie camp for three days.

    “I just ate ice cream, watched TV and got a lot of rest,” Giroux said of his recovery from the surgery.

     During the preseason, he has not scored in four games and is a minus-three.

    “I thought his worst game was probably his first game, and his best game was probably his last game,” Stevens said. “As the pace went up today, I thought he was one of he young guys who elevated his game a little bit. That’s the normal process a lot of these young guys go through. They come in and they’re under the gun to make a big impression to make the team. I think he’s gotten better as we’ve moved along, which is what we want to see.”

    Giroux, 20, who nearly made the team in last year’s camp, still has a chance to make an impression. The Flyers play three exhibition games in the next four nights, including Wednesday's contest against Washington at the




   The Flyers have been going with center Mike Richards flanked by wingers Simon Gagne and Danny Briere on their first line, and Jeff Carter and wingers Scottie Upshall and Mike Knuble on the second line.

    Based on camp, it appears the third line will be composed of center Glen(CQ) Metropolit with wingers Joffrey Lupul and Scott Hartnell. Steve Downie, who appears to have made the team with a solid camp, will likely center the fourth line between Riley Cote and Arron Asham.

     That seems to leave Giroux headed to the Phantoms for more seasoning.

    “He’s still being evaluated as we move along,” Stevens said. “But either way, I think he’s going to play some games. Whether he starts here or goes to the Phantoms and comes back, I don’t know.

    “If he does start the year down there, it just means we’re deep enough here. If you look at our three lines, left and right side, Claude can play either side. We’re pretty strong over the first three lines on the wings.”

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   Backup goalie Antero Niittymaki, recovering from hip surgery, skated for 30 minutes today and is hoping to be ready when the season starts.....The Flyers sent 13 players to the Phantoms, including hard-nosed forward Matt Clackson.....Gagne, who missed most of last year with a concussion, sounded ecstatic today when he talked about how well he felt after playing in Saturday's exhibition.....The Flyers will have a three-day bonding camp in West Point, N.Y., on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The Flyers plan to take 23 to 25 players to West Point......It appears that veteran Jim Dowd will have a difficult time making the team, though he could be one of the extra forwards who is a healthy scratch.