PHILADELPHIA -- It's been a long time since Paul Holmgren was behind an NHL coach, but the Philadelphia Flyers' GM apparently still has a good eye for line combinations.
Five months ago today -- Oct. 22, 2011, in a game against the St. Louis Blues -- was the first time Scott Hartnell started on a line with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr.
Coach Peter Laviolette credited that particular line change to Holmgren.
"We were talking and Paul had suggested it," Laviolette said. "We looked at it and gave Scott an opportunity."
Hartnell had been floundering and even spent time on the fourth line when he received the promotion.
"He was going through a time where he had had a tough start due to injury and couldn't train at the end of the summer and even in training camp like he wanted to," Laviolette said. "To his credit, he put in a lot of extra time to get himself in great shape, and I think playing with Claude really helped him. From there the confidence just continued to grow. Their line has become a really good line for us. It's been together the entire year because they've been productive."
Giroux was an All-Star and is in the race for the Hart Trophy and scoring title, and Jagr has been tremendous in his return to the NHL, but it's Hartnell who has been the biggest beneficiary of the line change.
Hartnell is having by far his best NHL season, as he's posted career highs in goals (35), points (64) and power-play goals (a League-best 15), and played in his first NHL All-Star Game.
"You always think about who you're playing with before or last year," Hartnell told NHL.com. "I've had some great linemates since I've been in Philadelphia, and Nashville, too, (but) these two guys can do things with the puck that most people can't. I'm pretty fortunate to be in the spot I am."
While most have forgotten about the early struggles Hartnell had, he certainly hasn't, and that allows him to appreciate his situation even more.
"That's one thing I try to put in my head," Hartnell said. "The first few games you might not score a goal or might not score a point, the coaches could change it up the next game and you're with someone else. I've tried to come every practice, every game, to work hard and keep up with them."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK