DALLAS - Aside from having his stick ready for a pass at any time from the NHL's current leading point-getter and the active all-time points leader, Scott Hartnell said he had an added responsibility last night against the Stars.
Hartnell was to act as the extra muscle for linemate Claude Giroux, who was back on the ice for the first time since sustaining a concussion on Dec. 10.
"I got a talking-to earlier to make sure that I'm aware of what's going on," Hartnell said before the game. "I need to make sure no one takes liberties with him or [Jaromir Jagr]. I'm sure they'd be in a scrum if I got hurt. But I'm definitely going to be watching his back.
"With a concussion, you want to doubly be aware of that, you don't want guys punching him in the face after a whistle. I will definitely be there if something like that happens."
With a four-point night, Giroux seemed to handle his own business just fine. When he was bumped into the boards - by Trevor Daley on a first-period power play or later on the penalty kill by Steve Ott - Giroux showed no ill-effects in his return after an 11-day layoff.
Reunited last night for the first time in nearly 2 weeks, the Flyers' top line did not miss a beat. Both Jagr and Hartnell assisted on Giroux's first-period goal that tied the game.
In fact, top-unit injuries - whether it was Giroux over the last four games or Jagr's four-game absence in November with a groin injury - have not affected Hartnell's prodigious points pace. Hartnell has been the one constant on a line that has also recently included Sean Couturier and Danny Briere.
Hartnell collected three points in the four games Giroux missed and five points in the four contests Jagr sat out in November.
With two assists last night, Hartnell now has 12 points in 10 games in December. He is on pace to finish with 41 goals and 35 assists for 76 points over a full 82 games - which would easily top his 30 and 30 campaign with the Flyers in 2008-09.
To put those gaudy numbers in perspective, since the 2004-05 lockout, a Flyer has topped the 70-point plateau for a season only eight times.
Hartnell, 29, is well aware of his success. He said he tracks his stats on a daily basis.
But he also knows that he wouldn't be in this position without playing alongside two of the game's most talented players. It's just hard to imagine what Hartnell's totals would have looked like if he was paired with Giroux and Jagr from the start. He went the first seven games of the season playing sparingly while posting just two points.
"Jagr is a competitive guy," Hartnell said. "If I'm not working hard in practice, I will hear about it from him. And though 'G' leaves me alone, it does get me fired up to want to work hard and play for him. Playing with two guys like that, that want to be on the scoresheet every night, I think that feeds off to everyone else."
While the schedule has been set for a high school and college hockey doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park for Jan. 4 - with soon-to-be Division I team Penn State facing nationally ranked Division III foe Neumann College preceded by Malvern Prep and La Salle High - another game was added to the docket.
The club teams from Drexel and Villanova, representing the ACHA Division I club hockey league, will battle in the "Crosstown Classic" on Jan. 5 at 7 o'clock. That will ensure that all three levels of college hockey will be on display. Tickets are $10.
Yesterday at the ballpark, NHL ice guru Dan Craig's crew put the rink boards in place. If all goes well, under-ice pipes carrying coolant will begin flowing today and the first layer of ice will be laid down tonight.