Monday, August 31, 2015

Does Giroux still have a chance?

Hockey Canada assistant coach Ken Hitchcock shed some light yesterday on the injury replacement process for the Olympics.

Does Giroux still have a chance?

(Matt Slocum/AP file photo)
(Matt Slocum/AP file photo)

As disappointing of a week it was for Claude Giroux, not being selected to Team Canada’s Olympic entry, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Hockey Canada selected 25 players (14 forwards, 8 defensemen and 3 goaltenders) to their roster on Tuesday.

They still have until Feb. 11, the eve of the opening puck drop in Sochi, to make changes to their roster because of injuries or personal matters. However, most changes would likely be made before charter planes carrying personnel over to Russia take off on Feb. 8.

Giroux is one of approximately a dozen players to be considered as an injury replacement. Former Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock shed a little light on the process prior to his Blues’ game in Calgary on Thursday.

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“The 25 players (already selected), we’re not even talking about,” Hitchcock, an assistant coach for Canada, told the Calgary Herald. “All the discussions we have right now are on the bubble players. There’s a dozen bubble players out there ... and everyone (on Canada’s staff) has their marching orders on who to view.”

Hockey Canada GM Steve Yzerman personally phoned Giroux on Tuesday to let him know that he did not make the initial cut. When asked about Giroux by TSN, Yzerman caught himself before saying that Giroux is likely on a very short list of players.

What are his odds of a spot opening up? For one, Steven Stamkos’ spot is not set in stone, since he’s still rehabbing from a freak fracture in November - though he did his most strenuous skating test to date on Thursday in Tampa Bay.

From here, it’s hard to imagine Stamkos - well ahead of schedule - will not be ready. He said he would like to test his injury in two games prior to the Olympic break.

But that doesn’t mean all 13 other forwards will make it through to Feb. 8 unscathed. Not that anyone is hoping for an injury, it is just the reality of the sport. For professional athletes, sometimes when you think about staying healthy is when you are at your most vulnerable.

“We’re losing 8 guys a week to injury in the National Hockey League,” Hitchcock said. “To think that our roster is going to be the same is probably not likely, so we’re going to be looking at players. There’s 16 to 18 games that guys have to play before the Olympics, which is a hell of a lot of hockey.”

Hitchcock said Canada will go through the same vetting process that they went through with the first 25 players with the replacement group.

“The players that are going to be watched, I can tell you, are going to be watched every day,” Hitchcock said. “How they fit? There’s going to be conversations with coaches, managers, on how the players are used - if they’re going well, if they’re not going well. The same conversations that were done on the 25 are now going to take place on the next 12.”

With that, it will be fun to track Giroux and his progress against the other replacement candidates.

Here is a brief look since Tuesday’s announcement:

Jan. 7 W @ NJD | 1G, 0A, -1, 3 SOG, 22:15 - goal started Flyers’ rally to win
Jan. 8 W vs. MTL | 0G, 0A, +2, 1 SOG, 18:02

MARTY ST. LOUIS (TBL) - Most points in NHL since 2010 Olympics (297)
Jan. 7 W @ WPG | 2G, 0A, +1, 6 SOG, 24:27 - GWG
Jan. 9 L vs. WSH | 0G, 1A, Even, 2 SOG, 20:30 - turnover led to Caps’ GWG

JOE THORNTON (SJS) - NHL assists leader
Jan. 7 L @ NSH | 0G, 0A, -2, 1 SOG, 17:26
Jan. 9 W vs. DET | 0G, 2A, +2, 0 SOG, 17:21

JAMES NEAL (PIT) - 35 points in 25 games
Jan. 7 SO W @ VAN | 0G, 1A, +2, 7 SOG, 23:21

Jan. 9 L @ LAK | 0G, 0A, -2, 1 SOG, 17:15

Others: Carolina’s Eric Staal (2010 Olympian) is currently out with a lower-body injury ... San Jose’s Logan Couture is on the injury list after undergoing hand surgery.

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

Daily News Staff Writer
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