Scott Hartnell skates, still 5-7 days from return

Scott Hartnell skates, still 5-7 days from return

February 21, 2013, 2:15 pm
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VOORHEES, N.J. –- After four weeks of watching the Flyers on his TV –- and throwing the remote at it on more than a few occasions, he admitted -– Scott Hartnell was happy to participate in a full practice with the Adirondack Phantoms Thursday morning at Skate Zone.

And he was happier still to join some of his Flyers teammates for a light skate afterward, adding up to almost two hours on the ice for the injured right wing.

“I’m a little famished right now, I didn’t have the biggest breakfast,” Hartnell said after the practices. “Yeah, a little tired right now, but you’ve got to push through that to try and get back as quick as you can.”

Hartnell broke his left foot exactly a month ago, Jan. 22 in the Flyers’ 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils. He had surgery three days later to correct it and last week returned to the ice for some light skating.

On Thursday, general manager Paul Holmgren said Hartnell, the Flyers' leading goal-scorer in 2011-12, was still about a five to seven days from returning. Hartnell agreed that the estimate still seems about right.

“I can tell that it’s not 100 percent, my foot,” he said. “It hurts a little bit. But compared to four days ago, it feels 10 times better. So hopefully, every day I start to see improvement and feel more comfortable out there.”

So far this season, Hartnell has played in only three games. That's a tough pill to swallow for a player who had missed only three regular-season games in five years with the Flyers before 2013. However, he’s moved from simple crossover drills to full stops and starts in only a matter of days, a very good sign. He hasn’t, though, scanned the calendar for possible target dates for return.

After Thursday's practice, Hartnell emphasized the importance of getting in a few full practices with his Flyers teammates before he does re-enter the lineup. About a week from Thursday, the Flyers host the Washington Capitals –- but thanks to the compressed schedule, practice time between now and then might be impossible.

The Flyers do play again nine days from now, at home against the Ottawa Senators. That might be better timing for his comeback.

“I’ll definitely want to get on the ice with some guys and do some 1-on-1s and things like that,” Hartnell said. “Especially my game, it’s not a perimeter game. I’m going right to the hard areas –- the corners, in front of the net. Having someone crosscheck you trying to move you in front of the net and trying to stay stable and stick on pucks.”

When he does return, he will wear plastic skate guards to protect both feet, something he had done previously only in practices during power-play drills. Until then, his focus will be on regaining his conditioning, something difficult for any player who suffers an injury like his.

“It’s the worst thing about breaking a foot,” Hartnell said. “If you break an arm or a shoulder, you can get on the bike and keep your conditioning up that way. But ... you can’t do any leg work. My left leg was a lot skinnier than my right leg. I’m trying to get back in shape. That’s probably the worst thing about getting injured, trying to get your wind back and your energy back and your timing on the ice.”

Where he’ll fit in the Flyers’ lineup when he comes back is the biggest question. If Matt Read –- who left Wednesday’s win over the Pittsburgh Penguins with an upper-body injury -– is healthy, coach Peter Laviolette might be hesitant to break up the top line of Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Read, Hartnell’s former spot. The Flyers’ second line, too, with Danny Briere, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds has seen success in recent games.

Wherever he plays when he comes back, though, will be fine with Hartnell. Predictably, he’s just eager to return as soon as he’s able.

“If you’d have said I’d be skating after three weeks [following surgery], I would have told you you were a fool,” Hartnell said. “So I’m pretty excited about where I am in the recovery. I want to be on the ice badly to help the boys.”

Others on ice
Andrej Meszaros, working his way back from a shoulder injury, and Michael Leighton, who is sidelined with a broken finger, both took part in Thursday’s skate with Flyers healthy scratches Tom Sestito, Kurtis Foster and McGinn.

Meszaros is likely about a week from being ready to return. In theory, Leighton could be back as soon as this weekend.