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Giroux, Hartnell expect Flyers to bounce back

Monday, 09.09.2013 / 10:00 AM / NHL Insider

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Giroux, Hartnell expect Flyers to bounce back
The Philadelphia Flyers will be looking to prove last season's 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference was a one-season anomaly rather than the start of a downturn for a franchise that won at least one Stanley Cup Playoff series each of the previous three years.

Claude Giroux didn't want to use the word "angry" to describe his mood this summer. "Motivated" was one he liked much better.

Giroux, who will enter his second season as captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, said he is motivated to make amends for a disappointing 2012-13 season, when the team missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time since 1994.

"That's more of a good word, motivated," Giroux told NHL.com. "We want to prove something."

They'll be looking to prove last season's 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference was a one-season anomaly rather than the start of a downturn for a franchise that won at least one playoff series each of the previous three years.

The Flyers started the season 2-6-0, a record Giroux called "gross," and a 3-6-2 slide to open March put the pin in their season. They didn't win more than two straight games until a four-game streak from March 30 to April 2, but they followed that by losing four straight.

"You have a 48-game season and you start the season … whatever we did, it's a pretty big hole to come out of," forward Scott Hartnell told NHL.com. "Seemed like we could never get on a roll. You'd win two and then you lose three, or you win one and have a great game and you have two terrible games with things that are controllable, like brain cramps or missed assignments in the [defensive] zone, things like that.

"Felt like you never got on a roll, where most years, especially in Philly, you'd get on one of those rolls where out of 10, 15 games you'd win the majority of them, and it never got rolling. The frustration throughout the whole team starts with your top guys and we felt it right through [the roster]."

Hartnell was more frustrated than most. Coming off a season when he scored a career-best 37 goals and skated in his first NHL All-Star Game, he broke his foot in the third game. He missed a month, never was able to find any kind of groove, and finished with eight goals and 11 points in 32 games.

"I think with the lockout, I don't think I was in the best shape coming in," Hartnell said. "You take a teammate's shot off your foot and break it. You're out of shape and you sit for three weeks and watch your foot in a cast, not being able to do anything but trying to come back as quick as you can. Say you're a step behind before the injury, you come back and you're two or three steps behind. It was frustrating. I think if you watched me play you could tell I was frustrated at the way I was playing."

Heading into his 13th NHL season, Hartnell, 31, approached his extended summer with fervor and said he feels he's given himself the best chance possible to get back to the level he hit two seasons ago.

"I had a great summer training," he said. "I think it's the best physical shape that I've ever been in. Hopefully that leads to a quick start and some wins in the column. Life is easier when you're winning hockey games, especially in Philly. Having a good start makes life a lot easier."

He'll have new teammates to help. Center Vincent Lecavalier, defenseman Mark Streit and goaltender Ray Emery were added to fill holes and strengthen the depth.

Lecavalier likely will slot in as the second-line center behind Giroux. The hope is the veteran can bring as much off the ice as on it.

"Vinny is a great player," Giroux said. "He's been an elite player for a long time. He's a great guy off the ice; I've never heard anything bad about him. ... He just looks excited to be a part of this group. The leadership he's going to bring is going to be great for us."

Lecavalier was captain for seven of his 14 seasons with the Lightning, and Hartnell said he believes having another solid leader in the locker room will help Giroux as the 25-year-old continues to grow into his role with the team.

"This summer there was a lot of 'What could have been,' or 'If I could have done that.' It definitely gets the fire going to make the playoffs, get going again. I've never been this excited since I got to Philly six years ago. Excited about [training] camp, excited about our team. I'm just really looking forward to it." -- Flyers forward Scott Hartnell

"It's good for Giroux being a young captain for a guy like [Lecavalier] to come in with that experience and the leadership that he brings," Hartnell said. "Winning a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay, he led that team through thick and thin there. It think it'll take the pressure off our leadership group just having an experienced guy like that."

Hartnell said Streit, a veteran defenseman acquired from the New York Islanders, will fill an important role as a puck-moving defenseman.

"Anytime you can get a top-tier defenseman that can make that first breakout pass on the tape and get things going north offensively, you've got to snatch those guys up," Hartnell said. "I think [general manager Paul Holmgren] did a good job realizing that's an important skill set that you need on your team. I just talked to [Islanders forward] Matt Moulson and he said Streit is one of the best power-play defensemen in the League. His smarts, he always has his head up making passes, making plays. Good to see him as part of the fold."

Emery will join Steve Mason in a goaltending tandem that doesn't feature a clear starter.

"I think it's good," Giroux said. "They both want that No. 1 spot. The competition between those two is going to be good. ... Anytime you've got two good goaltenders, it's very exciting."

Giroux and Hartnell each said they're looking forward to getting back on the ice and putting what happened last season behind them.

"When you're working out or watching the playoffs ... you're sitting at home in your chair and thinking about your season and what went wrong," Hartnell said. "This summer there was a lot of 'What could have been,' or 'If I could have done that.' It definitely gets the fire going to make the playoffs, get going again. I've never been this excited since I got to Philly six years ago. Excited about [training] camp, excited about our team. I'm just really looking forward to it."

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I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh