Make no mistake, Hartnell is well-compensated for his job. But few of his teammates are clamoring to take over his role as the Flyers' resident pest in the crease.
Last night, Hartnell's desire to do the dirty work was the reason the Flyers bumped their season-high winning streak to four games. Hartnell scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 of 28 shots in net as the Flyers topped the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2, at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers are now 13-0-3 in their last 16 games against Carolina.
With Danny Briere out of the lineup serving his three-game suspension, Jeff Carter flawlessly moved up to play with Hartnell and Ville Leino. The trio's chemistry was evident in the game's first goal, when they found each other with back-to-back-to-back blind backhand passes before Hartnell knocked in his third goal of the season.
"I think the main theme with everyone is pretty similar," Hartnell said. "We don't change things up from line to line. We try to play relentless Flyers hockey, get it in, cycle, change sides, up to the point, and get to the net."
Hartnell seems to have rediscovered his home in front of the net, a place that seemed foreign to him for most of last season. Last night, he picked up his first goal less than 3 feet from 'Canes goaltender Justin Peters.
He was sniffing for his sixth career hat trick in the third period after redirecting Kimmo Timonen's point shot to make it 3-1.
"I don't know if it takes a certain person or player to go there, but a lot of people don't want to pay the price, taking cross-checks and things like that to get there," Hartnell said. "But that's where goals are scored. If you look around the whole league, that's where goals are scored with rebounds, tips and shots.
"For me to be effective, that's where I score most of my goals. It results in a lot of ice bags on my lower back."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette says he notices a difference in Hartnell's on-ice demeanor. He is visibly more confident, and his balance is better - he isn't falling nearly as much as he was last season.
We started to see flashes of Hartnell's renaissance in last year's Stanley Cup finals run.
"I think he's got a clearer head this year," Laviolette said. "He's coming in and just enjoying hockey and being at the rink with his teammates. It seems like there's a lot of chemistry with that line. I'm sure he's enjoying it and sometimes when you enjoy things it just shows in your game.
"You're more confident, you work harder. It's not like you're going to work, you're just going to the rink to have fun."
Believe it or not, Hartnell - one of the Flyers' notorious pranksters - said Laviolette has helped him get more out of practice.
"I think in the beginning of my career, I was always just 'la-la-la' and joking around at practice," Hartnell said. "But Laviolette has done a good job of making sure that we're practicing hard. I've tried to make a conscious effort to do that. I think it correlates to the game as well."
Two Saturdays ago, Hartnell had most of his shaggy mop-top shaved off to benefit the "Locks of Love" charity. Since then, the Flyers have won five of six games.
Even better, Hartnell has six points in those six games, with three goals and three assists. He had just one goal and one assist in the first six games of the season.
It couldn't possibly be the hair, could it? Maybe it is the old slogan from Disney's famed "Mighty Ducks" movies: "Look good, feel good, play good."
"I don't know, I feel a little lighter out there," Hartnell said with a grin. "It was probably about a pound that I lost when I cut that mop off. I don't know if it's superstition or what, but I'm feeling good."
Last night was the Flyers' first win of the season against a backup goaltender. Before topping Justin Peters
, they fell victim to Pittsburgh's Brent Johnson,
Columbus' Mathieu Garon
and Anaheim's Curtis McElhinney
. . . The Flyers won a season-high 61 percent of their faceoffs . . . This is the Flyers' longest winning streak since Feb. 8-March 2 of last season, when they were 5-0 wrapped around the Olympic break . . . Claude Giroux
(four goals, three assists) and Mike Richards
(four assists) are riding four-game point streaks.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at
http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at