An upper-body injury that already has cost Claude Giroux two games will prevent him from playing Thursday when the Flyers play the Minnesota Wild in the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers’ captain has not played since being hit by an elbow in the head from P.K. Subban in the third period of a 3-2 loss last Friday in Montreal. He missed a 5-4 overtime victory in Toronto and a 3-1 loss in Carolina Tuesday.
Giroux leads the Flyers with 49 points, with 16 goals and 33 assists.
The Flyers had a complete day off Wednesday and were unavailable. Giroux was known to have skated last Sunday, generating some in-house optimism.
“He was out there for a bit,” Sean Couturier said. “He looked good.”
Despite stressing that they have been in “must-win” situations for the past two weeks, the Flyers have struggled to maintain momentum as they make a late push for the playoffs. Having lost two of their last three, they remain at 63 points and in next-to-last place in the Metro Division. They do have two games-in-hand against Carolina (66 points) and New Jersey (67), just ahead of them in the standings.
At 7 p.m. Thursday, the Flyers will begin a six-game homestand that should define their season.
With 64 points, the Wild is in a similar position to the Flyers, in next-to-last in the Central Division but still in wild card contention.
The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 29. General manager Ron Hextall has said he would not make any moves that could compromise the Flyers’ future. Continued failure to generate traction, though, could influence his commitment to the present.
“Well, we’ve got a couple more games here,” Hextall said Wednesday, in a Comcast SportsNet interview distributed to the media by the Flyers. “So we’ve got some time. But we’ll continue to monitor the market and see what’s out there and make a decision when the time is appropriate.”
Hextall, however, remains firm in his decision that the Flyers will not be buyers at the deadline.
“We’re not going to add,” Hextall said, repeating a familiar phrase he used in an interview recently. “We feel like we have depth, quite honestly. The couple guys that got hurt, we believe we have guys up in the Lehigh Valley who can help us. So we feel we have enough depth right now to make it through the year. And if someone goes down, we have good fillers for them. So we’re going to hold, and if something comes up we can make ourselves better in the future.”
Hextall did admit that he has been involved in trade-deadline conversations.
“At this time of the year, you always get more calls,” he said. “And they’re coming in. But that’s part of the process. It’s tough because there are a lot of teams in the position that we’re in, where we’re out but we’re close enough. So they are hard decisions. You always weigh where you are and the upside of what you can bring back. So if you are going to sacrifice a little bit for now, you want more for the future.
“We want to give our team every opportunity to make the playoffs. On the other hand, if we can bolster ourselves for the future and not lose much, we’ll certainly look at everything.”
The loss of Giroux is likely to dim those playoff chances.
“We’ve proved we can win without him,” said Shayne Gostisbehere, whose 15-game point streak, a record for NHL rookie defensemen, was halted Tuesday. “But, of course, it is a huge loss.”
Hextall offered no timetable for a Giroux return.
“He’s day to day,” he said. “Hopefully he’ll be back soon.”