Hartnell has missed the past 16 games since breaking the first metatarsal in his left foot Jan. 22 against the New Jersey Devils. He had surgery to repair the injury Jan. 25, and at that time was expected to miss 4-6 weeks; Saturday's game marks four weeks and one day.
"Obviously, Hartsy is a big part of it," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "We haven't had a practice with him yet. It'll be good to get him back on the ice in a game and get him moving forward. It's been a long time without him. Certainly, I think we can benefit from having him in the lineup. He brings a lot to the table."
Hartnell skated only in a practice -- with the minor league Phantoms -- Thursday, and said then he was a week to 10 days away from playing in a game and wanted to go through at least one full practice prior to getting into a game. The Flyers had a full day off Friday.
Laviolette wouldn't comment on the lineup, but it's likely Hartnell will return to his top-line spot alongside center Claude Giroux, likely with Jakub Voracek completing the first forward unit. Hartnell also likely will see some time on the top power-play unit. However, Laviolette said he would have to monitor Hartnell's minutes.
"We'll see as we go today," Laviolette said. "He hasn't even had a practice with the team yet. But he has been skating. He practiced with the Phantoms a couple of times. He did practice, he has been skating on his own, he feels good. Certainly we'll welcome him back."
Hartnell had one assist in three games prior to his injury, but last season had a team-best and career-high 37 goals, including 16 on the power play.
Hartnell's return also injects some fresh energy to a lineup that admittedly needs it. The Flyers posted a 3-3-0 record on their six-game road trip that ended with an emotional 6-5 win at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. They then showed little effort in a 5-2 home loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday. After the loss to the Panthers, defenseman Kimmo Timonen admitted the team was tired, and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made similar statements in an interview with a Philadelphia radio station Friday.
"[Hartnell] is a big body that's capable of scoring goals," Laviolette said. "He was our leading goal-scorer last year. Hopefully he goes out and scores three goals and has 10 hits."
Contact Adam Kimelmanat firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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