Giroux, Crosby key in Flyers-Penguins matchup

Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux
Posted: March 15, 2014

Back in 2012, in a moment of postgame euphoria, then-Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called Claude Giroux the "best player in the world" after the center helped eliminate heavily favored Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Since then, Laviolette has taken lots of criticism for that statement, especially from those who believe the Penguins' Sidney Crosby is head and shoulders the class of the NHL.

Fast-forward to this season. Crosby - whose Penguins visit the Flyers in a Saturday matinee - leads the NHL with 88 points, while Giroux entered Thursday tied for 10th with 65 points.

After failing to score a goal in his first 15 games, however, Giroux has resembled the player Laviolette was gushing about.

In his last 50 games, Giroux has 23 goals and 58 points. Crosby has 23 goals and 65 points in his last 50 games.

The 26-year-old centers, both team captains, will be the focal points when the teams meet for the third time this season Saturday, the first of two matchups on consecutive days.

"Both teams like playing each other," Giroux said after Thursday's practice in Voorhees. "It's intensity, and it's almost a playoff game every time. It's a good test for us to see where we stand against one of the best in the East."

The Penguins (44-17-4), who are minus injured defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin, are running away with the Metropolitan Division.

"You've got to beat the best to be the best," winger Wayne Simmonds said. "We seem to play better when we play teams that are atop the conference or are doing well."

Giroux's line figures to be matched against Crosby's unit, while Sean Couturier's line is expected to face Evgeni Malkin and his linemates.

"It's always fun playing Crosby and Malkin," winger Scott Hartnell said. "I think it brings out the best in a lot of guys. [Couturier] plays his best games against Malkin, and [Giroux] always plays his best games against Crosby. I think if we have a supporting cast with those two guys, and bang away, we're going to have some success."

The Flyers (33-25-7) have 17 games left, including the next 12 against teams currently in playoff spots.

"We believe we're a playoff team. We believe we're a contender," Hartnell said.

Breakaways. Winger Zac Rinaldo will return to the lineup Saturday after missing one game with an undisclosed injury, and backup goalie Ray Emery (groin) is healthy again and expected to start one of the two games this weekend.


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