MONTREAL - Because of injuries, Flyers rookie winger Harry Zolnierczyk was forced to play center in Washington Tuesday for the first time since his collegiate days at Brown.
Coach Peter Laviolette was impressed.
"He's a real effective player because of his speed," Laviolette said after practice at the Bell Centre on Wednesday. "Speed can make defenders uneasy, and he has it."
Zolnierczyk's fourth line, with Zac Rinaldo and Jody Shelley, helped set up a goal in the Flyers' 5-1 win over Washington. "They created energy," said Laviolette, whose team will take a six-game winning streak into Montreal on Thursday night.
At Brown, Zolnierczyk was mostly used at wing, and he never played center with the AHL Phantoms. He liked playing there against the Capitals.
"I was excited about the opportunity," said Zolnierczyk, 24, who graduated with a 3.6 grade-point average and an economics degree at Brown. "It gave me a chance to touch the puck coming down the middle and then kind of working down low. It was kind of a compliment that they had the trust to put me at center if need be for a game or so."
Danny Briere said it's more difficult to play center because there's more responsibility at both ends. "As a centerman, you have to be focused every single shift because you're always involved," he said. "You're kind of supporting everybody. You can't take any shifts off."
Jaromir Jagr's legend as a fitness freak is growing.
When the Flyers were staying in California recently, linemates Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jagr roomed together.
"Me and Claude went to bed at 11:30, and Jaromir put on a 40-pound vest and said he was going for a run," Hartnell said. "It was like, 'Holy smokes, this guy is [almost] 40 years old and is doing this.' He's incredible. Me and Claude looked at each other like, 'Should we go with him? We're his linemates.'
"It's pretty cool just being a part of him and his legacy. I'm just fortunate to be on his line."
Hartnell on 24/7, which debuted on HBO Wednesday night: "Hopefully, I'm not swearing too much. My mom and dad wouldn't be too proud of that."
The series chronicles the Flyers and Rangers en route to the Jan. 2 Winter Classic.
Hartnell said HBO workers were not obtrusive. "They're like flies on the wall, which is cool."
Defenseman Andreas Lilja practiced for the first time since he suffered a high ankle sprain on Nov. 26; he hinted he might be able to play next week, which would be a few weeks ahead of schedule. . . . Giroux has been named the city's athlete of the year by the Philadelphia Sportswriters Association. He will be among those honored at a Jan. 30 banquet in Cherry Hill. For ticket info, go to www.PSWA.org. Past Flyers winners include Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent and Eric Lindros. . . . Forward Tom Sestito, recalled from the Phantoms on Tuesday, practiced with the Flyers. He has one more game to serve on his suspension, and he is expected to be returned to Adirondack on Friday.