SUNRISE, Fla. -- When the rosters were first announced on Jan. 12, Scott Hartnell said he had a feeling it might take until the third or fourth round of injury replacements for him to finally make it to his first NHL All-Star Game.
Turns out, the third time is the charm.
According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Hartnell has been selected to join the All-Stars this weekened in Ottawa as an injury replacement for Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.
Hartnell, 29, has 25 goals (T-5th in NHL) and 19 assists for 44 points after registering 5 goals this past weekend as the NHL’s No. 2 Star of the Week. Penguins forward James Neal was the only player in the NHL with more points than Hartnell not in the All-Star Game.
The NHL officially announced Hartnell as a replacement just before noon on Tuesday. It is Hartnell's first career All-Star selection in his 11-year career, though he did participate in the Young Stars game in 2002 in Los Angeles.
"Obviously really really excited," Hartnell said in quotes distributed by the Flyers. "I didn’t know if I was going to get the call or not and unfortunately some guys have to get hurt and take some time off. It’ll be a pretty cool experience. It’ll be my first All-Star Game and my family is all going to be there, so it’ll be a really nice weekend.”
It's about time. Hartnell was passed over in the initial vote by the NHL's hockey operations department and he was not the first injury replacement named on Monday.
On Monday, Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu and Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien gracefully bowed out because of injuries. They were replaced by Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle, who likely should have been an All-Star the first time around, and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang.
Now, there may be other spots opening. There are reports that Alex Ovechkin, who shouldn’t even have been an All-Star selection in the first place, may end up declining his surprising invitation after being suspended by the league for 3 games for his hit on Zybnek Michalek. Ovechkin, who will forfeit $154,677.55 in salary over the 3-game ban, is still eligible to participate in the All-Star Game if he chooses.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that the league would not discipline Ovechkin if he decided to skip the game.
Plus, Dallas forward Jamie Benn (appendectomy) is still unsure of his availability, though it looks as if he may be heading to Ottawa.
Neal could replace Ovechkin if he decides not to go. Loui Eriksson could replace teammate Benn if he is not healthy enough to play. Florida’s Kris Versteeg is also a worthy candidate.
TO PRACTICE OR NOT? If you want a simple explanation as to why the Flyers have the NHL’s worst record (19-37) in the shootout since it was instituted in 2005, you don’t have to look far: they do not practice breakaways.
In the three seasons that I have covered the team, and attended practice day-in and day-out, I can’t remember seeing the Flyers work on them more than a handful of times. And most of those shootout practices came under John Stevens’ reign.
For coach Peter Laviolette, the decision is a tough one to juggle. With so many games, practice time is limited to no more than an hour three or so days per week. Is it worth devoting a few minutes regularly for the shootout, as opposed to the power play or penalty kill?
“You’ve got to pick and choose and see where you can devote your time,” Laviolette said Monday. “We’ve been really strong in practicing the power play as much as we can. You’re sure you’re going to get power plays throughout the game, but you’re not sure whether you’re going to get shootouts. We’ve just been strapped for time, I feel like.
“In football, they get a chance to cover everything from Sunday to Sunday. They have a list, they get to touch on everything. We just don’t have that luxury. We work on what we need.”
The Flyers have won just 3 of their last 13 shootouts overall. And that isn’t to say that even if the Flyers practiced them, they’d get better.
“Sometimes, no matter how much you practice, a player is going to bite you because he makes a good move,” said Ilya Bryzgalov, who is 0-for-5 in shootout attempts this season. “They have a couple moves that they’re working on in practice everyday [in normal drills]. Sometimes, everything hits you. Other times, they rip you apart.”
General manager Paul Holmgren said on Monday that the Flyers’ lack of success in shootouts doesn’t add up, especially since they are an offensive team. He added that he isn’t a fan of the shootout and “there is a reason they aren’t in the playoffs.”
Nonetheless, the Flyers have lost out on a few key points every season that can be the difference in playoff seeding. And they leave a bad taste in the Flyers’ mouth the next day.
“If we’d won the breakaways [on Sunday], we’d feel better,” Laviolette said. “It didn’t have anything to do with the game. Or how hard the guys competed, or how much the guys gave. We lost the breakaways. I’m not sitting here saying that we don’t need to work on it. We do.”
NOT ALWAYS SUNNY: It would be easy to look at the Flyers’ stellar 25-11-1 all-time mark in South Florida and assume that they’ve found success there recently. It would also be wrong.
Florida is 6-4-1 against the Flyers at the Bank Atlantic Center since 2006, including the Flyers’ 3-2 win there on Nov. 13. By the way, it is 81 and sunny in South Florida today.
HARD TO BELIEVE: Panthers forward Scottie Upshall, who skated with the Flyers from 2007-09, has yet to score in three career games against Philadelphia. The Flyers are the only team in the league that Upshall has not recorded a point against.
EQUALLY HARD TO BELIEVE: Max Talbot was credited with the Flyers’ 5th goal on Sunday against the Bruins, giving him his first two-goal game (regular season or playoffs) since he scored both of Pittsburgh’s goals in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, which the Penguins won 2-1 against Detroit. His last two-goal, regular season game was way back on Oct. 13, 2007.
Talbot (1 goal), Wayne Simmonds (3 goals) and Hartnell (5 goals) are all close to tying their career-highs in goals for a season. We’re just a little more than halfway through.
WHO’S COUNTING? Incredible stat from Deadspin.com on Monday, who is the unrivaled sports media watchdog. Deadspin tracked ESPN’s SportsCenter shows from Jan. 7 to 18 and they were quick to notice the lack of NHL coverage, especially since it was beaten by baseball, who is in the throes of a very quiet offseason.
Total time: 590 minutes
Time devoted to individual sports:
NFL: 225.5 minutes (40.2%)
NBA: 106.5 (19%)
College basketball: 76 (13.6%)
College football: 55 (9.8%)
MLB: 16.75 (2.9%)
NHL: 13.5 (2.4%)
Other sports: 18 (3.2%)
SportsCenter staples (like "Top 10," "Encore," "What 2 Watch 4," etc.): 48.75 (8.7%)
The NHL, of course, is the only major pro sports league that does not have a television contract with ESPN.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers