Flyers monitoring Hartnell's heart trouble

Posted: September 26, 2011

SCOTT HARTNELL felt a strange twitching motion in his right arm on Friday night in Detroit.

Then he noticed that his heart seemed to be racing a little more than it should have been, considering he was sitting on the bench in Joe Louis Arena.

Those two symptoms, which led to the discovery of an alarmingly elevated heart rate, may keep Hartnell off the ice indefinitely, as doctors try to figure the root of the problem.

"It wouldn't go down, even after rest, during the intermission," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said of Hartnell's heart rate. "We'll just continue to monitor him and get him tested."

Hartnell sat out the third period of Friday's preseason game and will be held off the ice until he is further examined by a cardiologist tomorrow.

Heart problems have been taken very seriously in sports, especially in hockey, after the on-ice death of 19-year-old forward Alexei Cherepanov in Russia in 2008, which was determined to be caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a thickening of the heart muscle).

In fact, Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr was skating with Cherepanov on a 2-on-1 rush before Cherepanov returned to the ice and collapsed.

Flyers defenseman Matt Carle's younger brother, David, who was set to be a first-round draft pick in 2008, was forced to retire because of the same disease that suddenly took Cherepanov's life. David Carle is now a student-assistant coach at the University of Denver, where his full hockey scholarship is still being honored. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of sudden, unexpected cardiac death in any age group.

Maybe it is pure coincidence, but Detroit's Joe Louis Arena has seen a number of heart-related incidents.

In 2005, Detroit's Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench and needed to be revived by an automatic external defibrillator during a game against Nashville. He was unconscious for 6 minutes. Fischer, then 25, never played another game in the NHL and ultimately became the Red Wings' director of player development.

In 1998, Chris Pronger, then playing with the St. Louis Blues, went into brief cardiac arrest on the ice during a playoff game against the Red Wings after being hit in the chest with a slap shot from Dmitri Mironov.

Hartnell, 29, will continue to be monitored.

JVR ready to go?

"It's just the preseason," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette warned.

But James van Riemsdyk seems poised to begin this season the way he ended last year's playoff run, when he posted seven goals in 11 playoff games. Van Riemsdyk is tied for the NHL's preseason lead in goals after netting two goals in two games against Detroit.

He took over Thursday's game against the Red Wings and nearly tied the game single-handedly after the Flyers were down 3-1 late in the third period. By our count, with no timing statistics available in non-NHL arenas, van Riemsdyk played nearly 3:30 of the game's 5-minute overtime session.

"I think there is a process that you go through," Laviolette said. "Certainly, you need your veterans in the lineup, starting to take over games. He got going and got better."

Laviolette said he has already had "numerous conversations" with "JVR" thus far in training camp to challenge him to be better.

"It's only the preseason but it's good to get that 'gut check' early on," van Riemsdyk said. "It definitely helped me wake up a little bit. I'm holding myself to a high bar. You can't try to be someone you're not, you need to continue to be the player that you are. The rest will take care of itself."

Hockey Prospectus' annual preseason projections have van Riemsdyk setting career highs in goals (23.9) an assists (22.7), but it's clear that the Flyers are hoping for more than that.

Roster trimmed

After parting ways with 17 players on Saturday, as the Flyers began to stock the AHL Adirondack Phantoms' training camp, they released tryouts Michael Nylander and Adam Mair from camp.

Nylander, 38, did not play in a single preseason game after Holmgren revealed he had a groin issue. Mair, 31, played one game but the Flyers realized they did not need another penalty killer with little offensive upside.

"That was a hard conversation with both of those guys, especially with Michael because he never really got an opportunity to get in," Holmgren said.

The Flyers were hamstrung by the NHL's 50-contract limit and they have been impressed by the play of young guns Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo and Tom Sestito. All five of those players remain in camp. Read, 25, has four points in three preseason games.

"We're quite happy with how some of these young guys have played," Holmgren said.

For now, the Flyers are exploring their options with Nylander, who may take a minor league deal. The Flyers' roster is down to 29 players. It must be cut to 23 by Oct. 5. Coach Peter Laviolette said to expect more veterans to play in the final three preseason games, beginning tonight against the Rangers.

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