PHILADELPHIA – There are times in every hockey season when a player who is struggling does a self-assessment and realizes what needs to be done to break out of his slump.
Just realizing the problem is the first part of the solution though. Actually putting it into practice is something else entirely.
There are players who never are able to put the two parts together. Scott Hartnell though, is a guy who knows how to correct what ails him. You don’t play in the NHL for more than a decade without that ability.
And Hartnell has done it several times in his career as a Flyer – even going so far as to rise from the ashes in the 2010 playoffs to be one of the key contributors on that team’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals, and subsequently becoming one of the team leaders from that point forward.
And now Hartnell finds himself in the doldrums once again. Not the lowest of the lows – as he experienced earlier in his career – but definitely in a bit of a frustrated funk.
There are a lot of excuses he could make that would be justifiable, but Hartnell is not that way. Instead, he is hell-bent on correcting his game post haste.
“I’ve struggled the last five, six, seven games,” Hartnell said. “I know it and I know my teammates know it. It’s on me to change that tonight and be accountable for the way I play. No one can [affect] that. Kimmo [Timonen] can’t get me going. [Claude Giroux] can’t get me going. It’s all on me.”
And Hartnell plans on doing it – possibly in a new role.
Lineups are always fluid with coach Peter Laviolette, but Hartnell practiced this morning on a line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.
It’s an interesting combination, but the timing of putting them together – if in fact that is the plan – couldn’t come at a more timely moment.
The New York Rangers have really struggled with the net-front presence of the opposition since losing defenseman Marc Staal to an eye injury three weeks ago against the Flyers.
Putting that trio together could in fact act as a disruptive presence in front of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
“Let’s see how the first few shifts unfold,” Hartnell said. “We’re all pretty similar players. We all go to the net hard and we’re all physical. I think that can be a great combination if we get our feet moving and get pucks to the net. All three of us are desperate for a breakout game that’s for sure and there’s no better stage than to do it tonight against the Rangers. I’ve been struggling and it’s been a few games for the other guys since they’ve scored. We have to score goals to win hockey games.”
And while that lack of production has been frustrating for Hartnell, it hasn’t really weighed him down.
“My play has been up and down, but I’m still Scott,” he said. “I feel pretty good, but looking back, you don’t play for seven months, you come back for seven practices and three games and then you miss another month where you can’t do anything it’s not surprising to me that I’m not scoring five goals in five games but I’m not making excuses either.
“I have to be better. I have to be stronger on the puck and create better opportunities for my linemates. I have to play the way Scott Hartnell plays. I have to get back to what works.”
Another change to the lineup will have Tye McGinn replacing Harry Zolnierczyk as the Flyers look for a replacement for Danny Briere who is out of the lineup indefinitely with a concussion.
McGinn will make his return to the Flyers for the first time since suffering a fractured orbital bone one month ago in a game against Toronto.
In 16 games this season with the Flyers, McGinn has three goals and two assists for five points.
“We kind of joke around in the coaches room about it,” Laviolette said. “Tye hasn’t had a bad day in the NHL. His practices are sharp. His games have been terrific. He’s done everything right since he’s been here. It was an unfortunate accident that happened to him, but now that he’s back playing again, it’s good to get him back up here.”
And McGinn could see time on the top line as well, a place he played briefly during his time earlier this season.
“We talked a little bit about it this morning about what I have to do out there,” McGinn said. “I was lucky enough to get a few games up on the top line in my last stint here. They’re great players and they help me out a lot. Like I said I just have to go out there, play my game and contribute as much as I can.
“They’re two very skilled players. I’m just trying to bring that power forward game to that line, muck it up in the corners and hopefully create some room for those guys.”
McGinn said he’s not worried if he has to fight again, even if the last one ended so brutally.
“It’s hockey,” he said. “You play the game. There’s not going to be a code out there in the game. It’s an aggressive game. It’s what we sign up for. We love the game. If that’s what comes, it comes.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37