Philadelphia center Max Talbot got a close look at what makes longtime friend and former teammate Sidney Crosby of the Penguins tick, particularly the incredible focus and work ethic. In his first season with the Flyers, Talbot sees a lot of those qualities in center Claude Giroux .
"He's the real deal," Talbot said of Giroux, 23, who ranks among the NHL leaders offensively. He had 15 goals and a team-best 32 points in 25 games going into the Flyers game Wednesday at Buffalo.
The Penguins play tonight in Philadelphia.
Giroux is drawing a lot of national attention, especially since Mike Richards and Jeff Carter no longer are with the Flyers after formerly being considered the heart of that team's offense.
"He always played in the shadow of some other players, but, wow, he's a great player," Talbot said. "I think his best quality, the thing I like the most about him, is just his desire. He just never stops. He's just crazy out there."
"Exactly, but in different ways," Talbot said. "He's more crazy. He just goes in, takes a big hit, whatever. That's passion and desire."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma thinks the theory that Giroux has blossomed into one of the best players in the NHL since the Flyers traded away Richards and Carter does a disservice to Giroux.
"I'm not sure he's stepped out from a shadow or is getting more of an opportunity, but he's been a dynamic player, and we've known that playing against him for years now," Bylsma said.
Although Crosby did not feel well and did not travel to Philadelphia as a precaution, he was one of four forwards who practiced Wednesday after being given the day off Tuesday. The others were Pascal Dupuis , James Neal and Arron Asham .
Forward Richard Park (right leg) and defenseman Deryk Engelland (unspecified injury) did not practice and, according to Bylsma, remain day to day.
About 15 minutes into the Penguins practice at Consol Energy Center, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury suddenly dashed to the bench between drills.
With the help of goaltending coach Gilles Meloche , Fleury pulled off layers -- mask, jersey, neck guard, pads, long-sleeved shirt -- until he had nothing on above the waist. He then started with a different shirt, put everything back on and raced back to his crease.
"I just had a new shirt on, and it was so itchy, I just couldn't take it anymore," Fleury said. "I don't usually strip on the ice like that."
The realignment taking effect next season makes things interesting for Henry and Linda Staal of Thunder Bay, Ontario. It puts their three NHL sons -- Jordan of the Penguins, Marc of the New York Rangers and Eric of Carolina -- in the same conference.
They each will face each other six times a season. On average, there will be a Staal showdown about once a week.
"It's great," Jordan Staal said. "It's always fun playing against your brother -- maybe not in the playoffs, but at least in the regular season. It's a good time. It's kind of neat how that worked out."
Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen looked a lot more poised in a fight Monday against Boston's Brad Marchand than he did last season when he was with Dallas and fought Crosby. That likely had a lot to do with the fact that Marchand had just slew-footed Niskanen, dumping him on his back near the end boards and angering him.
"I missed a week due to a concussion because of [a play like] that three seasons ago when I got dumped on my head," Niskanen said. "It's kind of a dirty play, I think. Heat of the moment, things happen. Sometimes, [fighting] is the right thing to do."
Marchand got a minor tripping penalty.