After beginning last season out of shape and then suffering a broken left foot and never getting into a rhythm, shaggy-haired Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell is a new player this year.
Leaner. Faster. More driven.
A massive drop-off - from a career-best 37 goals in 2011-12 to just eight in the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign - served as his motivation.
"He's in the best shape of his life," general manager Paul Holmgren said after Monday's practice in Voorhees. "His body fat is 7 percent lower than it's ever been, so he did the work in the offseason that we asked him to do."
Hartnell, 31, struggled with his conditioning at the start of last season, Holmgren said.
"When we came out of the lockout, I think a lot of older players in the league - I don't just mean Scott - but you get into November [without the season underway] and your motivation just wanes on you as an older player. He wasn't in great shape when he came, and then he broke his foot three games in and he struggled."
"But he was [ticked] at the end of the year that we didn't make the playoffs; he was [ticked] at his game and he did something about it this summer, so I'm excited for Scott to see what he can do with the shape he's in. He's playing on a good line, and playing with a good player in Claude [Giroux], and hopefully he can get back to the year he had before."
When Hartnell returned after missing 16 games because of his injury, "he was probably in worse shape than when he broke his foot because he couldn't do anything," Holmgren said. "But to his credit, he came back and he tried out there. There were games where he looked OK, and other games where he looked like he couldn't keep up. He admitted to me in his end-of-year meeting, 'I looked like a third-line player.' "
"I think my comment was, 'Yeah, and a bad one.' But like I said, he did the work. I'm happy and proud of him for doing it. Now he has to continue it."
Hartnell, whose team opens the season Wednesday against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, said his goal is to get off to a quick start. "You want to get wins, mainly, but you want to get hot early. You want to get a couple goals early, get a couple of points and get the confidence going in the first part of the season.
"We have to hit Wednesday running."
Hartnell will be on the top unit, one that is expected to include Giroux and Jake Voracek, who took part in his first full practice Monday since he injured his lower back while crashing into the post in a 2-1 preseason loss to New Jersey last Tuesday.
"I feel a little better every time I skate," Voracek said after Monday's practice.
Voracek was on a line with Sean Couturier and Max Talbot, but he is expected to be on the No. 1 unit Wednesday. He was on the Flyers' top power-play unit Monday.
Voracek is excited to have Hartnell back at 100 percent.
"Obviously he's a huge part of our offense," said Voracek, who led the Flyers with 22 goals last season. "He's a gritty player in front of the net and does so much dirty, hard work. He's looking great out there."
Coach Peter Laviolette agreed.
"He came into camp as a determined guy, to try to make sure we start the right way," Laviolette said.