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Blue Jackets' Hartnell craving win against Flyers

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Having spent seven seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers before being traded in June to the Columbus Blue Jackets, left wing Scott Hartnell laughed when asked what kind of reception he expects Friday in his return to Wells Fargo Center.

"It's Philly, man," he said. "I'm sure I'll get a round of applause, but the way I play a lot of cities don't like me. That means I'm doing a good job in that way.

"If I run over (Claude) Giroux first shift I'm sure I'll get some boos."

Hartnell may or may not be jesting about taking a run at his former linemate, but if that would create a spark for the slumping Blue Jackets (4-10-1) then he would gladly risk the wrath of the fans that used to cheer him in exchange for a long-sought victory.

Scott Hartnell returns to face the Philadelphia Flyers with his current team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, desperate to snap a nine-game losing streak. (Photo: Jamie Sabau/NHLI, Len Redkoles/NHLI)

While he is having a strong start to the 2014-15 season with 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 15 games, the Blue Jackets have tied their longest losing streak in history with an 0-8-1 mark. Only the Buffalo Sabres (eight) have fewer points in the NHL than the Columbus' nine.

"It's not the position we want to be in," Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno said. "It's obviously embarrassing from our standpoint.

"If we can go in there and play our game and come out with a win, that would really be gratifying for not only (Hartnell) but the whole team in getting us kick started."

It's not the scenario Hartnell, 32, envisioned when he waived his no-movement clause to join the Blue Jackets on June 23 in exchange for center R.J. Umberger. The Blue Jackets were coming off their second Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance and the future looked bright with a bevy of young talent.

But the combination of injuries, illness and suspension has kept 8-10 players out of the line for most of the season. Hartnell said Wednesday he doesn't regret accepting the trade, one he didn't seek and was upset by at first.

In 517 regular-season games for the Flyers, he had 157 goals, 326 points and 908 penalty minutes.

"You want to be in a place where you're wanted and not be in a place where you're not wanted," he said. "I'd rather be happy and wanted. I know Columbus and what they have going on here is a good thing. It's just a rocky road right now.

"I'm not going to lie, would I do the same thing? Why would I leave playing with (Giroux) and (Jakub Voracek), two of the best players in the League, and what we had going on in Philly? They wanted to go in a different direction."

The Flyers have won three straight and are fourth in the Metropolitan Division with a 7-5-2 record.

"I watch the scoreboard every night and see how they're doing," Hartnell said. "Obviously they're doing a little bit better than us. It's something we need to fix and fix soon, or else the end of the season will be tough to play."

He also admitted one of the first things he did after the trade was to look up the date of his first game in Philadelphia.

"It seemed just like yesterday when the trade happened," Hartnell said. "I'm real excited to go there and see the guys, see the city that I spent a lot of my life in."

He stays in contact with many of his former teammates: "They've got me on this stupid group chat with the 15 guys or whatever they have on there."

Hartnell said he most misses Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who is on injured reserve because of blood clots. They played together in Hartnell's first six NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators before they were traded to the Flyers in May 2007.

Having gone through that experience of his first time back to Nashville as a member of the Flyers gives Hartnell an idea of what to expect Friday.

"It's going to be emotional, for sure," he said. "There's a lot of memories, the 2010 (Stanley Cup) Final and guys I've played all seven years with. Those are the real touching things for me and the friendships I made for a lifetime.

"I had so many good times. I'm looking forward to having more good times in an away jersey."

Columbus coach Todd Richards hopes they began with a win against the Flyers.

"These are the situations where the players rally around the guy, whoever is going back, because they know it's an important game for him," he said. "When it's an important game for him it needs to be important for the whole group.

"There should be a lot to get the guys ready: playing in Philadelphia, a division game, Scott Hartnell is going back. There's lots of reason to be ready for that game."

When Hartnell was asked if it would be special to end the losing skid at Philadelphia, he said, "It would have been nice to do it a few games ago."

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