Scott Hartnell is no stranger to the NHL post-season. Through 10 seasons with Nashville and Philadelphia, the left wing has played in 91 total playoff games, scored 19 goals and added 28 assists.
Now, with the Jackets poised to begin their first post-season run in three years, Hartnell's skill on ice isn't his only asset. He also brings an understanding of what it takes to get ready for, and succeed in, the post season.
"The playoffs are exciting, it's my type of hockey," Hartnell said. "You have to finish checks, you've got to be hard, you have to go to the dirty areas to score goals. All those things add up over a long series and over a long playoff. It's the most fun time.
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"You're playing for that Stanley Cup. But you have to win the first game, and the first series. It's a two-month process, but I'm excited to get started."
Hartnell knows what the post season demands of a team. As he looks around the room at his teammates, many of whom are preparing for their first NHL post-season, he's not worried.
Video: CAR@CBJ: Hartnell extends Jackets' lead with slapper
"I think a little inexperience can be a good thing," Hartnell said. "Obviously, the first couple games will be a little nerve-wracking, but once you get skating and take those first couple hits, you definitely start to dial in right away."
The Jackets have stayed steady in their approach to their game all season, and it's served them well. When the team has stumbled, they've found a way to re-group, and it's that behavior that feeds Hartnell's confidence in what the Jackets can do.
Hartnell knows that, of course, there will be moments when he and other veteran players who have playoff experience will need to step up and be leaders in preparing this team for the post-season. But that's not the focus right now. Now is the time to focus on playing at the peak of the group's abilities.
This is a Jackets team that wants to finish as high in the standings as they can. That means not taking any nights off and not altering routines or preparation.
"We know who we still have to play," Hartnell said. "The games are going to mean something. It's not like we're on cruise control, we have to wrap things up."
The attitude around the room is getting more serious, Hartnell says. Even for a group that has had a business-like attitude day in and day out this season, as the games dwindle, intensity rises.
Video: CBJ@FLA: Hartnell deflects Murray's shot in for PPG
And Hartnell, who head coach John Tortorella calls "a playoff guy," is excited for what lies ahead after that 82nd game is played. A seven-game series is different than seeing the same team three, four or even five times over the course of a season.
"It will be intense," Hartnell said. "You have those battles, especially at home. There might even be a blowout game where you get some chippy stuff at the end. All that stuff fuels the rivalry. It's exciting and no matter who we've got and where we stand we want to play our best hockey."
After the regular season concludes, the time for speaking up will likely come. As the team goes through their preparation and pre-scouting, Hartnell knows there will be opportunities to say things that will need to be said.
"The playoffs are what you play 82 games for," Hartnell said. "It's been a while since I've been in them, and I'm just super stoked that it's going to be this year, with the group we got and with everyone bought in. That's the great thing."