Sunday, April 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Stamkos out; Giroux in?

Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos announced on Wednesday he will not be playing in Sochi, opening up a possible roster spot for Claude Giroux.

Stamkos out; Giroux in?

Flyers captain Claude Giroux. (Chris Szagola/AP)
Flyers captain Claude Giroux. (Chris Szagola/AP)

NEARLY A FULL month after Steve Yzerman stood on a podium in Toronto and crushed his lifelong dream of making Canada’s Olympic team, Claude Giroux feels a lingering pain.

For the most part, it was not a topic of conversation — until he stood at his stall Wednesday in the Flyers’ locker room and was peppered by questions from reporters.

“It upsets me, yeah,” Giroux said. “I was disappointed, for sure. It was one of my dreams to make the Olympics. But it’s just a detail. I try not to think about it right now. I have no control over it. I’m not going. I kind of put that behind me.

“Now, I have the break to get some rest and get ready for the rest of the year. I’m just excited for the end of the year.”

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Even after he had put the tough questions to bed one more time yesterday afternoon, that Pandora’s box of emotion was reopened Wednesday night.

With the NHL’s charter flights set to take for Sochi on Sunday, the possibility again exists that Giroux will be a member of Team Canada.

Steven Stamkos, one of the 25 players picked by Yzerman on Jan. 7, announced yesterday that his race to rehab the broken tibia in his leg fell short. He will not make the trip to Sochi, opening up one replacement spot on the roster.

Stamkos announced his decision about 4:35 p.m. Eastern time, or 1:35 a.m. in Sochi, Russia, where a large chunk of Canada’s executive staff was already fast asleep. As of late Wednesday, no announcement or timetable for a decision on the replacement player had been announced. Hockey Canada has until Feb. 11 to make a decision.

Stamkos, who has an NHL-best 164 goals since the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, underwent a CT scan Wednesday. He then met with a Lightning doctor, who informed him the fracture is not fully healed. He fractured the bone on Nov. 11 in Boston when sliding awkwardly into the post and has remained out of action since.

In practice this week, Stamkos pushed himself as far as skating in regular drills with Tampa Bay’s power-play unit. Losing Stamkos is an enormous blow for Team Canada’s chances for back-to-back gold medals.

“Today is obviously a very disappointing day for me,” Stamkos said in a statement. “I honestly believe that we did everything possible in order to have my injured leg ready in time for the Olympics, but I realize you can’t force healing. I know, in the best interest of my long-term health, I cannot represent Canada in Sochi, as much as I would like to.”

Yzerman, also the Lightning GM, said in a statement that it was a “pretty clear-cut decision, no grey areas at all.”

Giroux is thought to be on a short list of candidates that includes Tampa Bay’s Marty St. Louis, Carolina’s Eric Staal and Pittsburgh’s James Neal.

Is there any way Yzerman can say no to St. Louis for a third time? Yzerman’s NHL captain was not picked in 2010 or on Jan. 7 — and he hinted that the conversation to not include his own player last month was extremely tough.

Giroux (17) has more points than St. Louis (16) since the Jan. 7 Olympic announcement. No player in the NHL has more points than Giroux (30) since Dec. 17.

Then again, St. Louis has more points (310) than any player since the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

If Canada coach Mike Babcock has any say in the process, Giroux could head to Russia. Giroux victimized Babcock’s Detroit Red Wings twice in the last 2 months, leading a third-period comeback charge on Dec. 4 and posting a three-point night on Jan. 29.

For the first time since the NHL started sending players to the Olympics, Sochi is the first time the Flyers will not have a representative on either Team USA or Team Canada. With Stamkos out, that could change in very short order.

Timonen closer

After skating for more than an hour Monday morning in San Jose with the Flyers’ scratches, Kimmo Timonen returned to practice yesterday. Timonen, 38, missed the last two games with a severely bruised left foot, and his status for tonight’s game against the Avalanche remains in question.

“This was the first day I skated [hard] and we’ll go from there,” Timonen said. “It feels better every day. Hopefully, I’m fine [Thursday], because I want to play. I hate missing games.”

If Timonen does not play tonight, he will have only Saturday’s matinee against Calgary as his last remaining test before the Sochi Olympics. If he is unable to play, Timonen already said that is a sign he likely will not represent Finland in his fifth straight Winter Games.

Slap shots

The Flyers hosted 22 troops yesterday from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The troops were able to snag autographs and pictures with their favorite players before joining them for lunch ... Adam Hall (60.7 percent) ranks third in the NHL with a minimum of 350 faceoffs taken. He does not qualify to be among the league leaders since he hasn’t taken enough draws this season ... Tonight marks Colorado’s first visit to the Wells Fargo Center since Oct. 11, 2010, which ended a 4-2 win for the Flyers.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers
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