Flyers eager to turn things around after stumbling against Penguins

Daily News Staff Writer

As out of sync as the Flyers appeared when Pittsburgh pounded them with four unanswered goals on Thursday, they were similarly disorganized at practice on Friday.

At one end of the ice, Scott Hartnell was banging, slashing and whacking in an attempt to jolt his teammates - since the only thing they hit over the final 40 minutes on Thursday was the snooze bar. Hartnell was one of the last players off the ice, skating nearly an hour when his teammates capped their ice time at 25 minutes.

"It was a tough day; it's not a fun place to be," Danny Briere said. "There's a lot of long faces around. Everyone is in a bad mood today, and I guess it's deserved."

At the other end of the ice, Ilya Bryzgalov was cheerful as ever, showing no signs of disappointment after being yanked against the Penguins for the third time in 13 months.

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  • "What's the point to rip the hair on my head?" Bryzgalov asked. "It's not the end of the world. You can't be frustrated. You've got to forget and continue to move forward. What can I do? Just stay positive and prepare yourself for the better day. The sun's going to come up. Everybody's healthy. Everything is good."

    Everything is not so good for the Flyers (11-13-1), a team with lofty preseason expectations, who enter this weekend closer to 15th place in the Eastern Conference than a playoff spot (eighth).

    (By the way: Bryzgalov had a 2.20 GAA and .923 save percentage on Feb. 7. Those numbers have ballooned to 2.79 and .899 in a month.)

    Scott Hartnell said the Flyers need to start "owning up" and "being accountable," something that hasn't happened yet. That could soon change. With a Saturday matinee against a Bruins team that has lost only three times in regulation, and a Sunday nightcap against a Buffalo team that has as many points as the Flyers in their last eight games, heads may soon be rolling.

    The Flyers have never been confused with a patient franchise, one that will wait for change. Even though it's a shortened season, there are no "play for pingpong ball" theories for a team that actually spends above the salary cap every season.

    They are winless in "rivalry week," dropping divisional games to the Rangers and Penguins, despite entering the third period tied in each.

    "We have to start being accountable for every mistake and every shot you don't block that ends up in your net," Hartnell said. "It's crunch time here. You've got to sacrifice and get things going.

    "If you don't, it will show on the ice. We'll bring in someone else who wants to pay the price. They're not afraid to do things here, obviously, with the coaching staff bringing someone up or [Paul Holmgren] making a move. We've got to have that urgency, that desperation."

    Hartnell said the Flyers are failing to realize that this already is the "stretch run" in a shortened season, like having already played 60 games.

    "It's got to change fast," Hartnell said. "You look around the room, through the 'D' pairings and the lines, we're setup to have a Cup run, to get in the playoffs. We're not playing our best hockey right now.

    "Or else, we'll be in a spot where we'll have 10 games left and we'll need to win 10 just to have a chance."

    So, do the Flyers need a major shake-up, move a major name to shake the doldrums?

    "I think they've already tried that," Briere said. "We added [Mike] Knuble. We traded for Simon [Gagne]. I don't think anybody is waiting for a change. That's the frustrating part, two games in a row where it's not like we played bad the whole game, but we had segments where we just fall asleep. We lacked a little bit of maturity.

    "At some point, it's not about shake-ups anymore. It's about players making it happen."

    The Flyers are running out of excuses. If Andrej Meszaros returns on Saturday in Boston, they will be nearly completely healthy for the first time all season - with only Tye McGinn and Jody Shelley sidelined. The schedule is in their favor; travel has been light.

    There have been flashes of brilliance, but far too many minutes of mediocrity. Surely, few teams would be begging to draw the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs, but it won't matter if they don't make it first.

    Perhaps because the Flyers have missed only once since 1995, there seems to be a perception that playoff berths are given and not earned.

    "We don't have a lot of games to get back into a playoff spot," captain Claude Giroux said. "We have a lot of confidence in the players we have on this team. When we're on our toes, and we play our game, we're a hard team to play against. But we need to find a way to play that every game."

    Slap shots

    Andrej Meszaros, out since Jan. 24 with a dislocated left shoulder, practiced again Friday and has been cleared for weeks now. He said he wasn't sure whether he was playing and needed to "talk to everyone" . . . Forward Harry Zolnierczyk, having served half his four-game suspension, was reassigned to Adirondack, presumably to make room on the roster for Meszaros. Zolnierczyk may play in the AHL but will need to serve his remaining two games on an NHL roster before being able to play again . . . Rookie Tye McGinn, who has missed the last four games with a fractured orbital bone, practiced with a full cage but did not travel to Beantown.

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