As the NHL’s concussion epidemic has grown this year, fans, teams and players are learning more and more that there is no uniform timetable for the head injuries to heal.
Fortunately for the Philadelphia Flyers, medical professionals determined the league’s leading scorer, Claude Giroux, could play in a game just 11 days after suffering a concussion on Dec. 10.
Giroux missed only four games — a major break for Philadelphia — while other stars, like teammate Chris Pronger, have been out extended periods. The 23-year-old’s prolific production has arguably been the main reason the Flyers ended Thursday night tied with the Rangers for first place in the Atlantic Division.
“It’s so hard to say with a head injury, you’ve just got to rest, and it’s all about timing,” Giroux said in an interview aired on HBO’s 24/7 on Wednesday. “I don’t know, I guess you just know when you’re back to normal.”
He felt normal enough to return for the Flyers’ 4-1 win in Dallas on Dec. 21. Since returning, Giroux has registered a goal and seven assists in four games. He had a goal and three assists against the Stars and two assists during a 4-2 win against Pittsburgh on Thursday.
“He was hungry to get back in there,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told reporters after the Dallas win, in which Giroux had a goal and three assists. “He gets back into a game, he’s capable of that. It shouldn’t surprise anybody.”
Giroux resumed his previous spot skating between wingers Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr.
Without the current Hart front-runner, the Flyers could easily be in the midst of a midseason slide toward the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they are entering Monday’s Winter Classic against the New York Rangers with more points than any team in the conference besides the Rangers and Bruins.
The Flyers and the rest of the league will be happy to see the NHL’s leading scorer playing in a game for first place.