Better With Popcorn

Hartnell Returning to Form

All it takes is one ill-fated blast from the point to ruin a season.

At the time, that unfortunate situation struck Scott Hartnell down on January 24—a 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils. A rocket propelled puck off the stick of Kimmo Timonen broke the first metatarsil in his left foot, keeping him out of action for a while.

Hartnell has since returned, and in his return, he has scored a goal and added two assists since then. The team also won two of its last three games in its homestand at the Wells Fargo Center since the #19 orange sweater stepped back onto the ice.

"When you take a guy who was leading the team in goals with 37 out of the lineup, he brings a physical presence on the ice, and in the locker room leadership as well," head coach Peter Laviolette said of Hartnell. "If you get all of that back, it's an addition to our club."

In Hartnell's absence, the Flyers acquired Mike Knuble from Detroit to fill that netfront presence void that the 30-year-old Saskatchewan native would usually provide. Knuble served it admirably posting two goals and four assists in several different roles.

All of a sudden, the news broke that the man forever immortalized by a catchy hashtag would be back soon.

In typical tough hockey player fashion, Hartnell returned from injury just 32 days after the initial injury. He could have been out as many as 56 days, or eight weeks. Paul Holmgren pulled the ultimate tease, saying he would be back within 7-to-10 days after skating with the Phantoms. It only took a few days for him to return after skating.

"Eventually [the rust] will come off," Hartnell said. "It's easy when you play with a couple of the best players in the world. Jake [Voracek] is playing so well and with [Claude] Giroux being how he is, it's give the puck to them and try to get open."

Hartnell could be the Flyers' most valuable player throughout his time in Philadelphia. He has been the complementary piece on many productive lines over the last several seasons, including the Prospal/Briere/Hartnell line, the Downie/Richards/Hartnell line, the Lupul/Carter/Hartnell line, the Leino/Briere/Hartnell line, and last year's phenomenal experiment, the Jagr/Giroux/Hartnell line.

His style of play works perfectly with skill players, especially his current linemates.

"My game's pretty simple," Hartnell said. "I get on the body. I try to get in on the forecheck, create turnovers and play strong defensively." 

The team clearly missed Hartnell over the past several weeks. The team struggled to find offensive consistency. More glaringly, the Flyers had trouble winning the battles in the corners—something large that Hartnell provides.

"When he wins battles, it's much easier for us to play," team captain Giroux said. "He finds a way to win battles and then give you the puck."

"He's got that attitude that he's gonna win the battle and whatever you're going to try to do he's going to win. When he's got that attitude and he's on the puck and he's hitting and he's going to the net, he's hard to play against."

Without Matt Read in the lineup for a while, Hartnell has returned in the nick of time to help this team solidify its place amongst the top eight. Wins have not come easy, nor has reaching the .500 mark, but with a solid piece back in the lineup, perhaps Hartnell will lead the charge in the final two months of competition.

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