VOORHEES, N.J. — Right now, Scott Gordon likes Claude Giroux at center instead of left winger for a few reasons.
It takes some of the playmaking load off of Nolan Patrick's shoulders. The 20-year-old was being asked to play a top-six role and had struggled to create offense, producing two points in his last 16 games. With Giroux's shift back to the middle, Patrick can play third-line center, where the demand is lightened.
"I've told Patty, 'Don't worry about the title first, second, third line,'" the Flyers' interim head coach said Friday. "'You're going to get your ice time and the best part here is that the pressure isn't on you to be one of the top six.'"
Gordon also recalls his days as head coach of the Islanders. His first year in charge was Giroux's rookie season. When New York matched up with the Flyers, Gordon was well aware of the names Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the marquee studs down the middle.
"I remember playing against the Flyers and they had Richards and Carter — and this guy named Giroux, who I didn't know anything about," Gordon said.
Giroux was 21 years old at the time and joined the Flyers after Christmas.
"And I said, 'Well, I'm sure he's got to be an average player.' He had just come up from the minors," Gordon said. "And little did I know, he was a pretty good player.
"From an opposition standpoint, what it does is all of a sudden you're looking at three skilled centers.
"So when you're looking at your opponent and you see that you have three centers, there's potential for offense on each line, there's no third line, checking line."
The Flyers go Giroux, Sean Couturier and Patrick down the middle — not bad depth at all. If Patrick starts providing secondary offense, the Flyers will be tough to deal with, which is exactly Gordon's vision.
Speaking of Giroux and Couturier, both did not practice Friday because of maintenance days. They are expected to play Saturday against the Blue Jackets (1 p.m./NBCSP).
Carter Hart, who is 2-0-0 with 51 saves on 54 shots in his first two NHL starts, will be in net for the third straight game after giving the Flyers their first consecutive wins since Nov. 5-10. As for Sunday's game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, Gordon said that is to be determined.
Sunday is a 7 p.m. puck drop. If the 20-year-old Hart plays well Saturday, don't rule him out to start again Sunday before the three-day Christmas break.
'All you see is orange shirts'
The Flyers blocked 24 shots in Thursday's 2-1 win over the Predators.
The team's official Twitter account sent out a tweet that Gordon saw — and loved.
"I don't know who put the picture, I don't know where it was on the internet, but there's a picture at the end and all you see is orange shirts," Gordon said. "I don't even know if you see the net. You can't get any more commitment than that to try to deny a goal."
"He's definitely lived up to the expectations of the fans, I know that. He's definitely getting some love from them. I knew about him for a while, since he was drafted here. I've watched him in the world juniors, I've watched him through a couple of events, so he's definitely been on everyone's radar."
- Travis Konecny on Hart
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