Hartnell losing villain role with Flyers
ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
|Linesmen try to separate Pens forward Arron Asham (45) from Flyers' Scott Hartnell and Zac Rinaldo during NHL action in Pittsburgh on April 1, 2012. (Jason Cohn/Reuters)
PITTSBURGH - It seems to last from generation to generation, doesn't it, that there are no shortage of villains on the Philadelphia Flyers.
Normally, forward Scott Hartnell would fill and relish that role as his team prepares to face the Penguins Wednesday night in the opener of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final.
But with ex-Penguins Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot in the lineup plus rookie Brayden Schenn, who infamously cross-checked Sidney Crosby to trigger a late season brawl between the two teams, Hartnell may have to take a number.
"I don't know if I'm the most hated man here -- Mr. Jagr and Mr. Talbot might be higher on that list," said Hartnell, who has the ability to change that in the middle of a shift. "Hopefully we'll try to get extra energy from that."
The Flyers may be intimidating but they have little reason to be intimidated heading into Game 1 having won five of their six contests at the Consol Energy Centre.
It's a matchup Penguins coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged is certainly among the sexiest in the opening round.
"People around the league talk about it having a Conference final feel to it," Bylsma said.
The cross-state rivalry only adds to the hype of a series between the No. 4 Penguins and No. 5 Flyers.
"Everybody hates everybody," Philly's leading scorer, Claude Giroux said.
"It's going to be a good show for the fans."
The Flyers would prefer not to end up in a shootout with the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin-led Penguins. And much of the ability to avoid such a scenario will depend on the play of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who signed a nine-year, $51 million contract in the off-season that was hoped to bring stability to the Flyers net.
It's been a work in progress, but Bryzgalov has had a strong second half to the season.
"There's a lot of pressure on him," Hartnell said. "But he signed the big contract and came to Philadelphia where they almost run you out of town if you don't stop the puck, so he's come a long ways."