GARRIOCH: It will be a ‘strange feeling’ as Claude Giroux faces Flyers

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Derick Brassard has experienced what Claude Giroux is about to experience.

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The veteran forward knows what the 34-year-old Giroux will face when the Ottawa Senators take on the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at the Canadian Tire Center and it will be unlike anything he’s experienced in his career.

Brassard, 35, had a ringside seat to Giroux’s trade to the Florida Panthers last spring after playing his 1,000th game in the City of Brotherly Love and it will be his first time. will face the Flyers since being dealt to a contender at the NHL Trade Deadline.

“It’s kind of weird after being in Philadelphia for so many years,” Giroux said after the club’s Friday practice at home. “Playing them for the first time is definitely different and I’m not sure what to expect after playing with these guys for a long time and then playing against them. It’s definitely weird.

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In fact, it’s more than that and Brassard was among Giroux’s new teammates in Ottawa who offered advice on how to approach this moment.

“It’s not fun,” Brassard, a Giroux teammate last season in Philadelphia, told the newspaper.

Why is that?

“It’s all the relationships you’ve had over the years with guys and you’re so used to being on the same side and now you’re going to face them,” Brassard said. “It’s weird and it’s really hard to explain.”

After four years, four consecutive trips to the playoffs and a qualification for the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014 with the New York Rangers. Brassard, 35, faced that scenario when the Senators faced his former club in the second round of the playoffs in 2017.

He knew what it was like to play at Madison Square Garden during the playoffs and the challenges ahead. Instead of being excited about the possibility, Brassard just wanted to get past the Rangers as quickly as possible.

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“I was like, ‘Can we get this series over with and move on?’ said Brassard. “At the same time, I think, ‘I can’t lose to the Rangers’ after being traded (to Ottawa). It’s something we just had a conversation with Claude about because it’s a different feeling.

“At the same time, you just have to put your head down and go to work. You can’t focus on the guys on the other team that you’ve been good friends with over the years.

An unrestricted free agent, Giroux signed a three-year contract with the Senators during the offseason. He wanted to come home and help this team push for a playoff spot. The transition was easy for Giroux and his family as they already had roots here.

But the Flyers were a big part of his life. He was drafted 22nd overall by the organization in 2006 and spent 15 years of his career with Philadelphia. For much of his career being a Flyer was all he knew and when he left he wore the club captain.

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Claude Giroux (left) of the Ottawa Senators celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on October 15, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 3-2.
Claude Giroux (left) of the Ottawa Senators celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on October 15, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 3-2. Photo by Claus Andersen /GETTY PICTURES

“As strange and different as it may be, at the end of the day, it’s a hockey game that we need to get two points,” said Giroux, who scored twice in the club’s 5-4 loss. against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday at home.

Coach DJ Smith knows it won’t be easy for Giroux. He will take a professional approach to this game and plans to have dinner with former Philadelphia teammates Friday in Ottawa.

Once the puck drops, Giroux’s competitive juice will take over. He made his NHL debut with the Flyers on February 19, 2008 against the Senators.

“I’m sure it will be (strange) after spending so much time there, but I think he’s really become an Ottawa senator,” Smith said. “He was always a Flyer for sure, you can’t take that away from him because he played 1,000 games for them.

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Philadelphia Flyers Claude Giroux (28) looks on during the second period against the Nashville Predators at Wells Fargo Center on March 17, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia Flyers Claude Giroux (28) looks on during the second period against the Nashville Predators at Wells Fargo Center on March 17, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Tim Nwachukwu /GETTY PICTURES

“But his motivation is to beat them and help his teammates win. His best game of the year was the last game (against Vegas). His work ethic, his game away from the puck and his determination were at the When he gives us that, and if he can give us that (Saturday), the guys will definitely call.

It will be an emotional week for Giroux. Next Saturday, the Senators will face the Flyers in the morning at the Wells Fargo Center, so that’s just the first step. The club said on Friday that fans should be seated early for a pre-match ceremony honoring Giroux.

“It will still be difficult for him,” said Brassard. “I saw the ovation last year when he played his 1,000th game, and his last game, with the Flyers. I saw how much in Philadelphia I really appreciate Claude and what he has done for the organization.

“The return game in Philadelphia will just be different. You enter the rink in a different way, you dress in a different room than you have been used to for 15 years and it also feels different. This is another one where he’s going to have to put his head down and play.

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