Scott Hartnell's long curly locks, his fun-loving personality, and his sometimes goofy decisions - he infamously threw his glove at Tampa Bay's Ryan Malone earlier this season as the forward was skating in on a breakaway - have masked the fact that the 26-year-old left winger is having a career season.

Yet, when the Flyers host the Florida Panthers tonight, not much of the talk will center on Hartnell's personal-best totals in goals (27) and points (56).

All because of his wild, bushy brown hair.

The Flyers will give out Hartnell wigs to the first 5,000 fans, and all those 14 and under, tonight.

"With that hair, he's the most recognizable sports figure in Philadelphia," captain Mike Richards said. "He's good to have around. He always keeps things loose."

Hartnell, who says he hasn't had a haircut in 17 months, likes the look of the wig.

"Hopefully, we'll give the fans a nice little show and have a little fun with it," he said.

He said his hair - which looks part Oscar Gamble, part Don "Big Bird" Saleski, and part Scott "Carrot Top" Thompson - is tough to maintain. But he has "no intentions of cutting it any time soon," and he may try to lose his helmet tonight to show his hair "and get the crowd going."

Hartnell's season has included an in-game benching for his lack of hustle on Long Island, along with an NHL-high 50 minor penalties. But there have been many more positives than negatives. He is the Flyers' No. 4 scorer, and he has developed into a clubhouse leader.

That explains why the hair is not getting trimmed.

"I'm having a good year, so I might as well keep it going here for the playoffs and maybe beyond," he said.

Hartnell said it was "pretty cool" to have a wig designed after him. "I'm sure it'll be weird to have fans wearing that curly Afro mess. It's pretty funny."

"It's going to be scary," Richards said.

Uses for the wig?

"Halloween is the first choice," Hartnell said. "I'm sure there might be a couple Hartnell renegades out there on Halloween, mucking it up in the bars. But other than that, I don't know why'd you use this."

Hartnell said, "There are 20 guys in this room that are jealous of my hair, so I think maybe in warm-ups, a couple of guys will be wearing them."

Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen were acquired from Nashville for a No. 1 draft pick (a selection the Flyers had originally received from the Predators in the Peter Forsberg deal) after the 2006-07 season. It may be the best trade general manager Paul Holmgren has made.

"Right when I came here I felt like a team wanted me," Hartnell said. "The way Holmgren grabbed Kimmo and myself, I felt an extra boost of confidence. And playing in a bunch of different situations [helped]. This year, playing with one of the hottest guys in the NHL, Jeff Carter, has obviously contributed to getting a lot of points.

"It's all coming together, and [coach] John Stevens has been great for me. He's got me to be focused every night and put me in different situations - at the end of games, starting games - and it's just been a good year."

A season in which he can laugh at himself. After he threw his glove at Malone, Hartnell was involved in a charity event at a Phantoms game in which fans threw gloves and mittens onto the ice.

"Somebody said I'm every marketer's dream," Hartnell said with a smile.

Knuble wants to stay. Mike Knuble, whose 26 goals are tops in the NHL for players 35 and over, wants to remain with the Flyers beyond this season. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and his agent has had some talks with Flyers management.

The right winger, who makes $2.8 million this season and will be difficult to fit under next season's cap, made it clear he wants to stay.

"I know the economy is the big X-factor, and I'm a realist, and I know that money is tight here," said Knuble, 36, who, like Hartnell, provides a presence in front of the net. He has 113 goals in four seasons with the Flyers.

"You have your core group and then it's, 'How do the other parts fit in?' I'd love to come back, and I think I've been productive enough to warrant that. But you have to see where the organization is going."

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com.