Philadelphia Flyers

900 games is a lot, but Hartnell isn't satisfied

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900 games is a lot, but Hartnell isn't satisfied

DALLAS -- Not many hockey players can say this, but Scott Hartnell can.

His first two NHL games were in Tokyo, Japan. They counted in the standings, too.

“I don’t think many people even know that,” Hartnell said. “We started against Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr and those [Pittsburgh] guys in Japan, which was really cool.”

Come Saturday, that will have happened 900 career NHL games ago when Hartnell takes the ice against the Stars.

“It’s amazing how time flies,” Hartnell said. “It’s been an unbelievable journey. A lot of great stories, a lot of great times. We live a great life to play this game we love.”

Quick, what comes to mind first among memories?

Because Hartnell was from Regina, Saskatchewan, the first time he went to Edmonton, he had to pony up with tickets. Twenty-five for his relatives and friends.

“That was a neat trip to Edmonton,” he recalled.

What next?

“Signing in Philadelphia was a treat and this great organization,” he replied without hesitation. “The whole Stanley Cup run in 2010. Coming back against Boston. That was definitely in my top five, for sure.”

Hartnell knew this milestone was approaching. He saw it in the media notes. He’s spent 13 years in the NHL -- seven with the Flyers.

“It’s gone very quickly,” he said. “We just finished up in Nashville where it all started for me. That brought back memories. Six or seven years, I was there. I’ve been in Philly longer than I had been in Nashville.”

It would have been cool to have played No. 900 in Music City. Or even at the Wells Fargo Center, but oftentimes milestones such as these occur on the road.

“I look back and remember I was sick one game at age 18,” he said. “A healthy scratch once at 21. Couple injuries here and there. It is what it is.

“Kimmo [Timonen] played his 1,000th last year on his birthday. I don’t think that has ever happened.”

Indeed, Timonen’s milestone came on March 18 in Tampa Bay.

“We started a long way ago,” Timonen said. “In 2000 … we became friends right away and roommates. We’re really tight buddies right now.”

Look around the NHL and you see the Sedin twins playing together for one team only. You see Patrik Elias and Marty Brodeur in New Jersey and you have Hartnell and Timonen, not with one club but two.

“I don’t think there is a couple who played on two different teams,” Timonen said. “I’m happy to see him get 900.”

Hartnell and Timonen came to the Flyers in an offseason trade in 2007. Hartnell has spent all 900 games playing with Timonen.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” Hartnell said. “He’s my best friend. This could be his last year. We talk about being on the road and seeing cool cities and when will ever go back to Nashville and play them again.

“It’s a pretty cool milestone for me, obviously. A thousand games would be even more special. I’ve played a lot of games in this league trying to win a Stanley Cup and we haven’t been able to do that. Games are fun, but it counts when you get into the playoffs and play for the Cup.”

Incidentally, he has another milestone coming up, as well. Hartnell needs four points for 500 in his career.

At 31, he openly admits that he realizes that the only thing that matters at this stage of his career is winning a Cup.

Which is why Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals still lingers like a bad dream that won’t ever go away.

Patrick Kane’s short-side goal clinched the Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime.

“That game is still crushing to me,” Hartnell said, trying to laugh it off when you know inside he was crying.

He’s not the first immensely popular Flyer to feel that pain.

In 2004, when Ken Hitchcock’s Flyers lost Game 7 at Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jeremy Roenick, banged up and concussed, wobbled out of the trainer’s room and sobbed.

“We came so close and I’ll probably never get another chance,” Roenick said at the time.

It was devastating. Roenick was right. He never got another shot.

Hartnell wonders whether 2010 will be as close as he ever gets.

“You walk the hallways of Detroit and see those Stanley Cup teams and how great this team has been since the NHL started,” Hartnell said, referring to the outside walls in the bowels of Joe Louis Arena where the dressing rooms are.

Detroit’s Cup years and players' names are painted on the walls.

“To have your name up on a wall and be remembered forever is pretty neat,” Hartnell said. “The money is great, the fame, and everything that comes along with hockey, but if you don’t win a Stanley Cup, there is something missing from the whole deal.

“I’ve come to realize that in the last few years. The Cup is what it is all about. It’s not about scoring goals. It’s about winning it. That’s the bottom line.”

One thing saddens Hartnell. Timonen has talked of this being his last year in the league.

“We’re trying to make this a great year for him,” Hartnell said. “And obviously, a great year would be to win the Cup. We’ve got a lot of work to do and games to win between now and then.”

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers play a preseason back-to-back set when they visit the Rangers on Monday, then host them Tuesday.

With such a schedule setup, head coach Dave Hakstol already has two lineups in mind as the Flyers continue their evaluation for the opening night roster. The training camp roster is technically at 29, but with three players injured (Cole Bardreau, Colin McDonald, Anthony Stolarz), it's actually at 26 and must be down to 23 by the Oct. 4 season opener.

The obvious roster hopefuls are forwards Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Mike Vecchione, and defensemen Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim.

"Everybody that's here is still in the mix," Hakstol said after practice Sunday at Flyers Skate Zone. "I said it a couple days ago, this is when the competition gets pretty high."

If Sunday's practice combinations are any indication of what Monday's lineup will look like at Madison Square Garden, Travis Konecny, Vecchione, Leier and Lindblom will be extras. They were the four-man rotational line Sunday.

Hakstol said there could be some differences from the groupings Sunday when it comes to Monday's game. However, he does hope to play each bubble player at least one of the two games. So whoever sits Monday is more than likely to play Tuesday.

Eyes on Patrick
Patrick is feeling better and better.

After assisting Shayne Gostisbehere's overtime winner in Wednesday's 3-2 preseason split-squad win against the Islanders, Patrick played 16:50 Thursday in the 2-1 OT loss to the Bruins at TD Garden. The No. 2 overall pick saw some power-play time, had a few shots on goal and a pair of takeaways.

"Last game was the most comfortable I've felt," Patrick said Sunday.

He's now played in three preseason games, as well as the rookie game.

Patrick centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds on the second unit at practice, a spot which suits his strengths playing between two finishers with a good blend of ways to score.

Look for that line to stick Monday.

"We've only had one game together, but I think Simmer's obviously a top player in the league, he was an All-Star last year, he can put the puck in the net and make plays," Patrick said. "So he's big down low to create space. Jordan's great offensively, he's got a lot of speed, so I just try to play smart and find them when they're open and make plays."

Sound with studs
Hagg has put together a strong camp and preseason.

The 22-year-old defenseman is well-groomed and prides himself on play in his own end. Playing alongside Gostisbehere doesn't hurt, either. It allows Gostisbehere to focus a bit more on producing offensively because Hagg understands his defensive role.

The last two days, Hagg has been paired with Ivan Provorov.

With those two, he isn't complaining and seems to relish being the complementary piece.

"They're pretty good guys to play with," Hagg said.

"I don't mind it. Let them do their job and I'm taking care of the defense, kind of what I did last year, as well. Start getting used to it and I don't have any problems with it.

"I think my best game is in the D-zone, shutting down guys, 1-on-1 battles. And then sure, I can follow up in the game and find some pucks here and there. But my main focus is to be good in the D-zone, take care of that and the rest will take care of itself."

Roster two cents
Vecchione has played only two preseason games thus far and he was among the four-man line at practice. He should play at least one of these games on the back-to-back, but at this point, he looks like he'll start the season at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. There just isn't a spot for the rookie forward right now and he won't be on the roster to be an extra man.

Laughton seems to be a safe bet to make the Flyers' roster. He's been playing in the exact role the Flyers are hoping for him and he proved growth to general manager Ron Hextall last season with the Phantoms.

Leier has done everything you'd ask for from a guy fighting for a spot. However, the numbers game likely pegs him at Lehigh Valley to start 2017-18.

Nonetheless, Hakstol has been impressed by the 23-year-old winger, who had a two-goal game Wednesday in the 3-2 split-squad win at the PPL Center.

"It's about playing his role, what his role is," Hakstol said. "Taylor's a responsible two-way forward. When he's been with us, he's played in that third, fourth-line wing type of role, he's killed penalties — that's his chair. He's done a good job of that so far in camp and that's why he's got himself solidly in the mix."

Can't get enough
Weal is always getting in extra work.

Ever since coming to the Flyers in the January 2016 Vinny Lecavalier trade, he is often the first player on the ice before practice even starts. On Sunday, he was the last one off of it with Konecny. Together, the two took in some bonus ice time.

The 25-year-old Weal just loves the rink and it's gotten him from lots of healthy scratches in 2015-16 to what should be a prominent role in 2017-18.

Quotables
"I think they're going to try to stick to it a little bit more. I don't mind it. It's like impossible to cheat now in faceoffs. But some guys, it's kind of a skill to be able to cheat in faceoffs. I don't know, I think they're going to stick to it, and if they do, it's good. Guys are going to be not trying to cheat because you want to stay in the faceoff dot. We'll see what happens."

- Claude Giroux on refs being stricter in the faceoff circle during preseason

"I had quite a few chances that game. Just being able to jump up in the rush at the right times. You're seeing a lot more in the NHL these days that a lot of the offense is being pushed from D-men getting up in the play and joining the rush and creating chances. That's something I've had as a part in my game all the way through my career. I'm just trying to bring that to this level."

- Travis Sanheim on his goal against the Bruins Thursday

Practice lines and pairings

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek (more on this here).
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Mike Vecchione-Taylor Leier-Oskar Lindblom-Travis Konecny

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald

Current roster breakdown

Forwards (18)
Cole Bardreau (injured)
Sean Couturier
Valtteri Filppula
Claude Giroux
Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton
Jori Lehtera
Taylor Leier
Oskar Lindblom
Colin McDonald (injured)
Nolan Patrick
Michael Raffl
Matt Read
Wayne Simmonds
Mike Vecchione
Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal
Dale Weise

Defensemen (8)
Shayne Gostisbehere
Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg
Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning
Sam Morin
Ivan Provorov
Travis Sanheim

Goalies (3)
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth
Anthony Stolarz (injured)

Claude Giroux's left wing tryout takes to Madison Square Garden

Claude Giroux's left wing tryout takes to Madison Square Garden

VOORHEES, N.J. — Claude Giroux said he doesn't know what to expect.

The one thing we can expect is the left wing experiment to hit the Madison Square Garden ice.

Throughout training camp practices, the Flyers have dabbled with their top-line center shifting to the wing. They're now ready to try it in game action, head coach Dave Hakstol said Sunday, when the Flyers visit the Rangers Monday night for the fifth exhibition contest.

Giroux hasn't thought much of the move but he's been more than open to allowing the coaches to give it a test run.

"Hopefully get the puck a little bit more," Giroux said after practice. "We'll see.

"If it happens tomorrow and it goes well, it's obviously an option that we're going to look at this year."

In 2016-17, Giroux scored a career-low 14 goals for a full season. His 58 points marked a fourth straight drop-off. Despite playing all 82 games, he did not look or sound healthy for much of the season. At 29 years old, playing the wing could relieve some of the physical demands of playing center, both offensively and defensively. It could also free up Giroux for greater looks and alleviate the pressure to make plays, while instead creating and finishing from a separate perspective.

"Entering the zone, he's got so many different options," Hakstol said. "He's a guy that can make plays on his backhand entering the zone, he can open up the top of the offensive zone by taking — if there's soft ice available inside of the line, he can delay and make plays back through the middle. He's got so many options there that he's able to create because of his skill set. And defensively, coming off that left side, it's a good spot for him — coming out of our zone and through the neutral zone."

If all goes well Monday, how much would that change moving forward?

"Everything that we have in place has a purpose to it," Hakstol said, "and I'll leave it at that."

Giroux has played winger before in the past — and produced — so this switch is not new or a substantial adjustment. To him, it's all about simplifying.

"Game is still the same," Giroux said. "There's not much different to center and winger. Obviously breakouts, you're on the boards, but offensively, you're kind of all over the place, so it doesn't really matter."

During practice, Sean Couturier centered Giroux and Jakub Voracek on the first unit. That's the expected line for Monday night, although Hakstol said Sunday's practice combinations could differ from the ones they'll utilize in the game (more on the lines here).

With Giroux on the wing, an aspect to watch is the faceoff circle. How the position change factors into the number of draws Giroux takes is uncertain.

"I think that depends on the coach," Giroux said. "I think I'll obviously take faceoffs on the power play and then a couple on the PK. And on my strong side 5-on-5, I'm sure I'll be taking a couple. With the new rule, a lot of centermen get kicked out, so it's good to have me and Coots on one line."

As for everything else in regards to the wing, Giroux will know more once he has the answers to the questions.

"I can't really judge on it until I actually have a game under my belt," Giroux said.

The game evaluation begins at the Garden.