RALEIGH — Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers can relate to Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Like Skinner, Giroux suffered a concussion this season. Like Skinner, the forward was antsy, impatient, frustrated by the injury, eager to get back to a team that badly needed him but unsure when that would be.
"It's the worst," Giroux said Tuesday. "You see your team play and you obviously want to help them win, and you kind of want to rush it back.
"But that's probably the worst thing you can do. You need to relax and let it heal."
Giroux was smacked in the back of the head by teammate Wayne Simmonds in the Dec. 10 game against Tampa Bay, Simmonds catching a fallen Giroux with a knee as he attempted to hurdle him. Giroux was able to return Dec. 21 against the Dallas Stars, missing just four games, and the center had a goal and three assists in his first game back.
What is normal?
Skinner suffered his concussion Dec. 7 against the Edmonton Oilers and has missed 14 games. He recently said a tough part of the recovery is waking up and playing the mind game of whether he feels "normal."
"You wake up and you ask yourself every morning and about every half-hour, 'How do I feel?' " Giroux said. "You don't know what normal is anymore.
"The worst part is everyone asking you how you feel and you don't know the answer. The best advice might be for him to tell all his friends to let him be and quit asking him how he feels."
Giroux said the precautions being taken around the league in dealing with concussions were necessary steps. Skinner's concussion is his first; Giroux said he had "a couple" before this season.
"It's a good thing to make sure people are fine before they play, because a head injury is probably the worst injury you can have," Giroux said. "I mean, you're not going to play hockey for the rest of your life, so you want to make sure you're healthy and able to take care of your family."
Giroux's concussion and recovery was documented in HBO's recent "24/7" series that helped promote the NHL Winter Classic. When he's about to return, Giroux is shown talking to coach Peter Laviolette on the ice in Dallas and Laviolette appearing to try and convince a somewhat wary player that he's fine.
When is one ready?
Laviolette said Tuesday it wasn't a matter of him trying to push Giroux back into the lineup before he was ready.
"The conversation with Claude ... wasn't about him coming back from an injury," Laviolette said. "The question that was edited out beforehand was (Giroux saying) 'I don't want to come back and hurt the team,' and that's when I said, 'Are you kidding me?'
"Claude was cleared to play. He had practiced, he felt good, everything was good. We try to err on the side of caution."
Laviolette noted that as the Hurricanes coach in the 2006 Stanley Cup finals against the Edmonton Oilers, he had to decide if he would allow Erik Cole to return for Game 6. Cole had been sidelined with a serious neck injury suffered during the regular season but was given clearance to play in Game 6 in Edmonton.
"I had to actually sign my name to Erik Cole's neck injury for Game 6," Laviolette said. "That was my name on the bottom of the lineup sheet. In the end, I fill it out and I sign it. There's always that anxiety. Even though they're cleared, players go back in and you don't want to see anybody get hurt.
"Concussions are starting to pop up more and more and caution is taken more. Players have to come back from those injuries, too, even concussions. And no one wants to force it early."