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Paul Holmgren: Matchmaker?

When asked about his top line on Thursday morning at the Wells Fargo Center, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he couldn't take any credit.

Paul Holmgren: Matchmaker?

Scott Hartnell leads the Flyers with 35 goals this season. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)
Scott Hartnell leads the Flyers with 35 goals this season. (Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer)

When asked about his top line on Thursday morning at the Wells Fargo Center, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he couldn’t take any credit.

Laviolette said credit was undeserved not only for the way Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr have played together this season – but he couldn’t even claim that it was his idea to pair up the three.

Laviolette said general manager Paul Holmgren offered a suggestion to plug Hartnell in with the two playmakers.

They’ve combined for 195 points in 73 games – or 2.67 points per game. The trio accounts for all three of the Flyers’ leading scorers.

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At the time, on Oct. 22, Hartnell was really just finding his game after an injury in training camp hindered his rhythm. He collected just 2 assists in his first 7 games of the season.

“We were talking and Paul had suggested it,” Laviolette said. “We looked at it and gave Scott an opportunity. He was going through a time where he’d had a tough start due to injuries and couldn’t train through the end of the summer and even through training camp the way that he wanted to. To his credit, he put in a lot of extra time to get himself in great shape.

“I think playing with Claude really helped him and front there the confidence just continued to grow. Their line has become a really good line for us and has been together for the entire year because they’ve been productive.”

Hartnell leads the Flyers with 35 goals, already 5 above his career-high.

The common belief is that Hartnell has collected all of those goals simply as a result of playing with Jagr and Giroux, two of the best passers in the game. In fact, Hartnell has a career-high shooting percentage of 17.1 percent. And as the boys at BroadStreetHockey.com pointed out, teammates don’t have that much of an impact on shooting percentage.

“This is where Scott deserves a lot of the credit because he wasn’t able to train the way that he wanted to because of an injury,” Laviolette said. “He’s the one who put in the extra time and work to get himself into a situation where he can contribute the way he is.”

The goals, perhaps, surprise few in the league because he’s been a 30-goal scorer before. The real surprise, though, may be the man whose idea it was to put the three together.

OVECHKIN HOT: Heading into Thursday night’s matchup with the Capitals, it appears Alex Ovechkin is back to being… Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin, 26, now has 5 goals in his last 4 games. He’s now matched his goal total (32) from last season, but is way off his average of 54 goals over his first 5 years in the league.

The Flyers shutout the Capitals, 1-0, on March 4 at Verizon Center.

Few games remaining on the Capitals’ schedule are as big as this one. They’re somehow tied in points (80) with the Sabres for the 8th and final playoff berth in the East. And this is their one game in-hand against Buffalo. The first team to 5 wins will likely grab the final spot.

According to PlayoffStatus.com, the Capitals have a 74 percent chance to make the playoffs.

Capitals coach Dale Hunter did not name a starter, but Braden Holtby could oppose Ilya Bryzgalov.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

About this blog
Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black. Reach Frank at seravaf@phillynews.com.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Sports Columnist
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