The Flyers next game comes on Thursday night and it will likely be the most anticipated game of the season. For several months, it’s been known the milestone that was set to take place on March 17 when the Flyers face the Nashville Predators, assuming there were no setbacks.

There have been no setbacks. Claude Giroux has appeared in every game since Jan. 13 and will take the ice for his 1,000th game in the NHL and in a Flyers uniform on Thursday night.

Giroux, 34, is obviously a hot name in the trade market and his future is the topic of the week. With the NHL’s trade deadline one week away, it’s essentially a certainty that Giroux will still be with the Flyers on Thursday night to play in this milestone game, with the team announcing a pre-game ceremony ahead of Thursday’s game to honor the captain on his milestone.

As part of the ceremony, Bobby Clarke will be participating. Clarke is the only other player to reach 1,000 games played in a Flyers uniform. More details will be released later in the week.

To kick off the celebration of Giroux’s achievement, the Flyers held a virtual media availability with three teammates and friends of Giroux’s from his career – current Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere, current Flyers analyst Scott Hartnell, and Flyers forward Sean Couturier.

Hartnell was on the roster the night of his NHL debut in Ottawa on Feb. 19, 2008.

“He looked like he was 14 years old,” Hartnell said. “I believe it went to a shootout and he was called upon in the shootout as well. Just this young-looking kid, not much English, but you could see the confidence that he had. Now, almost every kid that comes into the league has the confidence that he had. Just watching him grow, he’s a kid that turned into maybe a little bit bigger of a kid and still doing what he does best every night.”

Laperriere came to Philadelphia two seasons later as a free agent, and immediately learned why Giroux was one of the most talked-about players on the roster.

“When I played with him, he was a baby. He was 22 years old. [Danny] Briere told me ‘wait until you see that Giroux. Everybody wants to play with him.’ Didn’t take me long to figure out why,” Laperriere said. “He was so good, so talented. Now I see him, he’s 34, he’s a dad of two beautiful kids. I was there for those 12 years where he went from a kid to a dad now. He’s so mature and I know his compete level.

“When I played with him, he would always compete,” Laperriere said. “A couple years later, that compete went to another level. You want to win and he was willing to do, and is still willing to do everything he can to win. That’s G. He’s a competitor and competes at anything. You want to play pool with him, he’s going to compete. That’s pretty much the only thing missing in his career is winning something.”

Couturier joined the roster for the 2011-12 season as a rookie and was taken under Giroux’s wing. The competitive nature of the Flyers forward, just starting to hit the peak of his career then, stood out to Couturier.

“That’s what makes him so great is his competitiveness,” Couturier said. “It’s one thing to be talented and have skill and to have success in this league, but to have success for as long as he’s had, I think it’s his competitiveness and his will to win and be the best that makes him that good for that long. Whatever he does, sports or cards, Monopoly, bowling, whatever thing he wants to challenge you, he’s going to give it his all. If you beat him or make it hard on him, he’ll give you some attitude. That’s the kind of competitive guy he is.”

Both Hartnell and Laperriere also spoke to Giroux’s qualities as a leader, how his off-ice approach and daily drive to be at his best would be noticeable to other players.

“He brings it every night. He brings it every day in practice. If you’d have seen videos of him working out, he’s incredibly intense. It’s up-tempo stuff. It’s why he’s one of the best in-shape guys in camp,” Hartnell said. “When you’re looking at your leadership group, your best player, and he’s ripped, he’s fast, he can make the plays.”

“It’s the compete level that he brings. When I played with him, what really marked me was Hartsy was on his line and he’d give him crap about not being ready for practice or not being sharp in a drill. He wasn’t afraid to do that, and for me that’s leadership,” Laperriere said. “We’re in a small world in hockey. Everybody talks to everybody, and when you hear that about a leader on a team, you know that kid’s got the right mindset.”

Obviously, for now, this is a celebration of Giroux’s NHL and Flyers career. It happens to come right on the heels of the NHL’s trade deadline and an uncertain future for the Flyers captain, who admitted after Sunday’s game that there are some things to still discuss this week regarding that future.

“It’s been probably the worst year since I’ve been here. It’s been a tough year. Obviously a lot of injuries, but I’m not going to start making excuses. It’s been a long year. I’m not too sure what to say, to be honest,” Giroux said following the team’s stunning 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens. “It’s not a position that I’d want to be in. There’s still some meetings and some things to talk about with management and see what the game plan is not just for this year but for the future.”

It sure seems like Giroux will at least be on the move at the deadline and make his first stop elsewhere in his career. That said, if he goes on to win in a new destination, Couturier expressed the happiness the team would have for Giroux.

“We’d be happy for him,” Couturier said. “Especially me. I’ve been around him since I started my career. To have learned so much from him and the time and the effort he’s put into this organization, you just wish him all the best. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, he’s a guy that definitely deserves to win at one point in his career.”

Fans are asked to be in their seats by 7 p.m. for Thursday’s game. The pre-game ceremony celebrating Giroux’s 1,000th game will begin promptly at that time. Puck drop will be slightly delayed as a result.

Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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