Claude Giroux, one of the NHL’s highest-scoring centers over the last seven seasons, will make his debut at left wing in Monday’s exhibition game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
“Hopefully, I get the puck a little more,” the Flyers’ captain said after practice Sunday in Voorhees. “I actually don’t know what to expect, but it should be good.”
In the last two practice sessions, Giroux has played left wing on a line with center Sean Couturier and right winger Jake Voracek.
“It’s obviously an option we’re going to look at this year, and I can’t really judge it until I have a game under my belt,” Giroux said.
Giroux, one of the league’s best in the faceoff circle, will still take lots of draws at left wing, along with numerous faceoffs on the power play.
“And with the new rule, a lot of center men get kicked out,” he said about referees being stricter about players cheating on faceoffs, “so it’s good to have me and Coots on one line.”
Coach Dave Hakstol said he likes Giroux entering the zone at left wing because “he can make plays on his backhand, and he can open up the top of the offensive zone if there is soft ice available. He can delay and make plays back through the middle. He’s got so many options he can create because of his skill set, and defensively, it’s a good spot for him.”
The second line Sunday had rookie Nolan Patrick centering Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Val Filppula centered Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise on the third unit.
The other lines: Scott Laughton centering Michael Raffl and Matt Read; and Mike Vecchione centering Oskar Lindblom/Taylor Leier and Travis Konecny.
Vecchione, Leier, Laughton, and Read are fighting for spots.
Working against the 23-year-old Leier: If he is not on the third or fourth lines and is just an extra skater, he will probably be sent back to the Phantoms because the Flyers want him to play regularly. The Flyers would probably be more comfortable with a veteran, such as Read, as an extra player if he doesn’t crack the lineup.
The Flyers play the Rangers on Monday in New York and Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center. The players who are on the roster bubble will most likely play in at least one of those two games, Hakstol said.
“Everybody that’s here is still in the mix,” he said. “I said it a couple of days ago, this is when the competition gets pretty high.”
The defensive pairings Sunday: Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg; Sam Morin and Andrew MacDonald; Shayne Gostisbehere and Brandon Manning; and Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas.
The three rookies on defense — Morin, Hagg and Sanheim — have been impressive in camp and appear to be battling for two open spots.
The Flyers have 26 healthy players left in camp and plan to carry 23 when the season starts Oct. 4 in San Jose.
Hakstol praised Leier’s two-way play and his work on the penalty kill. … It appears Lindblom or Filppula will handle Brayden Schenn’s old power-play spot this season.