TORONTO – With Jeff Carter out of the lineup with a fractured left foot, the Philadelphia Flyers are counting on a pair of youngsters to step up offensively as the team continues its push for the playoffs.
Claude Giroux, 22, and rookie James van Riemsdyk, 20, have been thrust into the spotlight playing with Mike Richards on one of Philadelphia’s top lines.
Lately, the new line combination has been paying dividends. Giroux scored the game-winner in a 2-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. He also had a goal Sunday, snapping a 14-game goalless drought in a pivotal 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
“They’ve logged a lot of minutes,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “They’ve jumped up from kind of a third-line role to a first-line role with Richards and they’ve done a good job handling the minutes. Their line has been very good.”
With the two recent wins, the Flyers find themselves seventh spot in the Eastern Conference standings. If the ninth-place New York Rangers don’t gain at least a point when they host the Leafs Wednesday night, Philadelphia is assured a post-season berth.
Veteran Ian Laperriere said the team is counting on Giroux to thrive while playing a more prominent position during crunch time.
“We need that, him and JVR, they need to pick up their offensive play, which they did,” he said. “It gives them more ice time that they might not see if Carter was in the lineup and hopefully Carter is going to come back sooner rather than later.”
Philadelphia also has concerns in goal, where injuries to Ray Emery and Michael Leighton have thrust Brian Boucher into the starting role.
The 33-year-old has picked up his play over the last three games. His shutout versus the Leafs gave Boucher consecutive victories for the first time this season and he was also strong in a tough 1-0 loss to Montreal last Friday.
“He played great last game, he played great against Montreal and he’s raising his level, and that’s what we need right now from our goalie,” Laperriere said.