Scott Hartnell (left) is expected to play Thursday night, but Steve Downie (right) is a game-time decision. (AP)
Scott Hartnell was lucky this time. He’s able to play tonight against the Nashville Predators after blocking a shot with his foot in Tuesday's 4-3 Flyers victory in Buffalo.
After two sets of examinations, Hartnell was declared day to day by general manager Paul Holmgren on Wednesday. Fortunately for the Flyers, though, he won’t miss any time.
“It felt good, better than I thought it would,” Hartnell said after Thursday’s morning skate. “Anytime you block a shot, it gets sore, and obviously I was worried about this one, but I should be ready to go.”
Hartnell said the shot caught him “right on the side” of his skate and that he plans to wear protective guards on his skates going forward because of the scare. Hartnell broke his left foot last season blocking a shot and missed 16 games.
“We weren’t sure yesterday, but it could have been a lot worse,” coach Craig Berube said. “You don’t want to lose any player for that length of time. The line’s been good, so it’s good that he’s ready to go.”
Berube refers, of course, to Hartnell’s line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. Over the last five games, the Flyers' second line has combined for 13 points.
“You hate to miss games, you hate to be injured,” Hartnell said. “So hopefully … we can get a big win against a tough team.”
Downie a game-time decision
Steve Downie has been a healthy scratch for the Flyers’ past two games, but he may get a chance to return tonight. The decision will come at game time, according to Berube.
At the morning skate, Downie was on a line with Chris VandeVelde and Adam Hall, the other two regulars on the Flyers’ fourth line. That makes it seem likely he'll get a chance to prove he heard the coach's message loud and clear.
So what needs to change in order for Downie to get back in the coach’s favor?
“His intensity in the game,” Berube said. “I talked to him about it. His fight on the puck, his style of play wasn’t there like it was before.”
As for suggestions that Downie’s play hasn’t been the same since his upper-body injury from a few weeks back, Berube said: “He says he’s fine. Everything’s good. It’s just mental.”
As expected, Steve Mason will get the start in net tonight against the Predators. Mason was also in net the last time these two teams played on Nov. 30 in Nashville, where the Flyers won in a shootout, 3-2.
He’ll face Carter Hutton, a former Flyer (for a very brief time) who once served as Brian Boucher’s backup. In 21 games this season, Hutton has .902 save percentage and 2.95 goals-against average.
Eight times this season, the Flyers have fought back from third-period deficits to go on to victory. One of those instances was the last time the Flyers faced the Predators.
They don’t want it to happen again tonight. Instead, they’re looking to do just what the coach has asked of them: Start out strong and carry a lead.
“Anytime we get that first goal or get the crowd in it, I think we … play better,” Giroux said.