At 35, Scott Hartnell is a shadow of his former self.
And that’s a good thing.
Hartnell lost almost 10 pounds this offseason, down from the 220 (or more) that he regularly carried around during his seven seasons with the Flyers to the 212 he will wield in his old building when the Predators meet the Flyers Thursday night.
“You eat like a bird,’’ he said. “But to keep up with these young kids you’ve got to be able to move with them. I feel the best I have in years.’’
A svelter, trimmed down Hartnell has meant a faster and more prolific Hartnell this season, as the Flyers discovered a week ago when their former teammate fist pumped in a pair during that wild 6-5 loss in Nashville nine days ago. He scored against Boston opening night and assisted on Nashville’s only goal in a 2-1 overtime loss to Chicago last Saturday.
Hockey wasn’t the only incentive to “shed some lbs.’’ as he put it. In July he married Katie Potkay, a Bucks County woman whom he met while playing in Columbus. Potkay’s father Doug is the tennis coach of Rider University.
“I’ve fallen in love with tennis,’’ he said. Which, if you’re sport is all about core muscles, ain’t a bad way to spend the offseason. Or maintain the speed necessary to remain in a league that Hartnell says, “I still have the passion for. I still want to win it all.’’
“That’s one thing that eludes a lot of us hockey players. I want to get that tin.’’
Notes: Pekka Rinne will get the start in goal as expected for Nashville. The Preds got a little taste of having a victory snatched from them in Chicago Saturday. Holding a 1-0 lead late, Nashville surrendered the tying goal after defenseman Matt Irwin had his stick pulled from him and thrown aside. There was no call on the play and Patrick Sharp scored as Irwin was left to defend the front of his net with no stick. Brandon Saad scored the game-winner in overtime. “[We were] just playing an unbelievable game to that point, and to have it taken away from us like that is ridiculous,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said afterwards. The former Flyers coach, with his trademark wry smile, did not want to talk about it during Thursday’s morning skate… Nick Bonino was injured in that game, and was seen wearing a brace around the left ankle he had surgically repaired this offseason. According to his agent, he will miss the next few weeks. Defenseman Roman Josi, the Preds’ new captain, returned to the lineup in Tuesday’s 4-1 victory over Colorado and scored a goal. He is expected to play Thursday. Hartnell had dinner in Philly with Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Kimmo Timonen Wednesday night. He said he and his new wife have talked about settling in this area when his playing career comes to an end. “It does seem like yesterday that I ended up leaving here,’’ saids Hartnell, who was traded after the 2013-14 season. “It’s always exciting to come back here, to have dinner in your favorite spots, see old friends. Just love to be here.’’