Flyers PR man Zack Hill had a couple of things for Claude Giroux to sign. Autographs, whether they are for charity or the child of a prominent sponsor, are as much a part of a player's life as medical tape and angry coaches.
Giroux's signature is among the most popular. If he's not an MVP finalist this season, he's among the top five or 10 in the discussion. He can work his way up with a big finish to this final month, though it would help if his teammates start scoring. Individual awards tend to go to players on the best teams.
Thanks to Brent Celek's release by the Eagles on Tuesday, the skinny little blur from Hearst, Ontario, has a quaint new distinction. He's the longest-tenured active Philadelphia athlete. It's a kitschy title that generally signifies only one thing to the player.
"It means I'm a little old," he said, laughing.
Giroux, 30, made his debut on Feb. 19, 2008 in Ottawa. He played two games before being sent down to juniors. He returned to the lineup the following year and has been there ever since. Giroux's hair is much shorter, his English better than mine, and he speaks in thoughtful sentences.
He's been team captain for five years, the longest run since Eric Lindros (1994-2000).
"It's been great," he said, signing a large photo. "How many years has it been, 10 years now? It feels like five years. Time goes fast when you enjoy doing what you're doing."
That enjoyment admittedly has waned these last two weeks as the Flyers have lost six of their last seven, with five of those losses in regulation. Two weeks ago, they were on top of the Metropolitan Division; now, they are fighting to hang on to the division's third seed with 12 games left and red-hot Columbus coming to the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.
Blue Jackets star defenseman Seth Jones, who was pulled from Monday's game with an upper-body injury, will play. Columbus has won five in a row and seven of nine since losing in Philadelphia on Feb. 22. The Blue Jackets are two points behind the Flyers in the Metro.
"It's what you live for, that little rush [where] you don't know what is going to happen," Giroux said, "… It's the most important game of the season."
Noted prognosticator Jake Voracek was asked how many points the Flyers will need to at least reach the playoffs. They are at 81 with a dozen games remaining.
After a moment, he came out with "92. We play a lot of divisional games right now. That's the reason."
Since the move to two divisions in 2013-14, the fewest points to qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs have been 93. Columbus was the third seed in the Metro last year with 108.
Defenseman Robert Hagg (lower-body injury) was a partial participant in Wednesday's practice, which was held at the Wells Fargo Center because of the annual team photo day. General manager Ron Hextall said the rookie's prognosis hasn't changed, which means he'll be out at least another week. … Veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya (lower body) also skated and is considered day-to-day. … Goaltender Michal Neuvirth (lower) also was out there. He remains on his original four-to-six-week timetable from Feb. 18, which would indicate his return is imminent.