The Philadelphia Flyers are in the midst of their longest winning streak in a year, but their latest victory may have come at a cost.
Claude Giroux, the league's leading scorer, will miss his first game of the season Tuesday due to a head injury as the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers go for a sixth straight victory against a Washington Capitals team trying to win three in a row for the first time in seven weeks.
Giroux took an inadvertent knee to the head from teammate Wayne Simmonds during Saturday's 5-2 win over Tampa Bay and did not return. Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren announced Monday that Giroux would not travel to the nation's capital as the Flyers (18-7-3) open a stretch where they'll play seven of eight games on the road leading up to the Winter Classic.
Before sustaining the injury, Giroux had two assists to increase his NHL-best point total to 39 (16 goals and 23 assists). There have only been seven games in which Giroux hasn't recorded a point, and the Flyers are 1-4-2 in those contests.
"I get the feeling, I think if it was up to (Giroux), he'd play,'' said linemate Jaromir Jagr, who had a goal and an assist Saturday. "The doctors have to make sure. You don't want anything like what happened to (Sidney) Crosby. You have to be very careful.''
The Flyers put rookie center Sean Couturier in Giroux's place on the top line between Jagr and Scott Hartnell during Monday's practice. Couturier hasn't earned a point in 14 games, but Jagr and Hartnell have been instrumental to Philadelphia's first five-game winning streak since Dec. 9-18, 2010.
Jagr, whose 656 career goals are tied with Brendan Shanahan for 11th-most in NHL history, has four goals and three assists during the Flyers' current win streak, while Hartnell has scored in each of the five victories. The Flyers haven't won six in a row since Oct. 26-Nov. 6, 2010.
Couturier did score a goal, as did Giroux, in Philadelphia's only prior game of the season against the Capitals, a 5-2 home loss Oct. 20. Alex Ovechkin had two goals for the Capitals, who improved to 7-0-3 in their last 10 games against the Flyers.
Ovechkin has scored six goals in 22 games since, but a matchup with Philadelphia could be just what he needs. He has 22 goals and 15 assists in 23 career games in this series.
The Capitals (15-12-1) haven't played since Friday's 4-2 win over Toronto, their second straight victory after losing five of six.
"It helps to get our confidence back. It's a long time ago we won two in a row,'' said Nicklas Backstrom, who had a goal and an assist. "Hopefully we can keep going off this and keep building. We need the points right now.''
Washington, which hasn't won three consecutive games since opening the season 7-0-0, finally got its power play working Friday. The Capitals went 4 for 6 with the man advantage after going 3 for 51 in their previous 14 games. They could again find some success against Philadelphia, which has allowed six power-play goals in its last six games.
"It's encouraging to start seeing results,'' said Brooks Laich, who scored Washington's final goal against the Maple Leafs.
Dennis Wideman originally got credit for that goal to give him a hat trick, but the NHL changed the scoring Saturday.
Washington's Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 26 shots Friday, made a season-high 40 saves against the Flyers in October. He is 4-2-0 with a 2.18 goals-against average in his last six starts versus them.
Philadelphia's Ilya Bryzgalov left in the third period Saturday with a lower-body injury, but is expected to be ready for this game. He has a 2.67 GAA during the winning streak.