LAS VEGAS – If the Flyers are going to have a successful road trip, they are going to have to do it the hard way -- by beating quality opponents.
Halfway through their season-high, six-game journey, the Flyers are 1-2 and have been outscored, 12-6.
Worse yet, they have played the three games that were considered the easiest on the trip – matchups against San Jose, Anaheim, and Los Angeles, the three worst teams in the Western Conference.
The next three games are against Vegas (.581 points percentage), Arizona (.571), and Carolina (.625), three teams in playoff spots. Vegas is in first place in the Pacific Division, just ahead of Arizona, and Carolina is in a wild-card position in the Eastern Conference.
In other words, the Flyers (.613) need to be much better -- especially on the defensive end -- or this could turn into a nightmarish trip.
“We have to find a way to be consistent, whether at home or on the road,” goalie Carter Hart said.
Hart, shelled in a trip-starting 6-1 loss in San Jose, will get the call Thursday in Vegas. He stopped 13 of 14 shots in relief of Brian Elliott in a 5-3 loss Tuesday in Los Angeles. Maybe that will stabilize his game on the road, where he is 2-7-1, compared with 11-1-2 at home.
The Flyers are 13-2-4 at home (.789 points percentage, tops in the NHL), and 9-11-1 (.452 points percentage, 23rd in NHL) on the road.
“We’re trying to figure it out. It’s got to be a mental thing,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said.
“We prepare the same, do the same thing,” Hart said. “We’ll find a way to fix that.”
The Flyers have allowed 3.62 goals per game (27th in NHL) on the road, and just 1.95 goals per game (No. 1 in the NHL) at home.
Elliott said that whether playing at home or on the road, “you have to stick to the same game plan and what makes you successful."
“We really have to focus on being a little bit more of the aggressor,” he said. "Going on the forecheck and making a simple game on the road, where guys can be predictable to each other and know where each other are going to be. And at the end, it comes down to us goaltenders as well and making saves at key times.”
On Thursday, they will face a Vegas team that has won the first two games of a season-high, seven-game homestand.
“We’re going to be playing against one of the best teams in the league," coach Alain Vigneault said. "Great atmosphere in that building, so it should be a good game for us to get back on track. They have a lot of speed up front and they have some [defensemen] that join the rush. Their rush game is a real strong one.”
After the loss in L.A., Vigneault said the Flyers had a couple of players who, "for whatever reason, don’t seem to have a lot of energy on the ice, so we’re going to have to find out why and obviously get better.”
On Wednesday, he said he didn’t want to give any specific names.
“But we are no different than any team in the league," he said. "You need your goaltender to make key saves at the right times, and you need your top players -- forwards and D’s – to play at a top-end level..”
The Flyers allowed the Kings three goals on three power-play chances, their worst penalty-killing effort of the season, and gave up a goal while on their own power play. They also allowed three power-play goals against Winnipeg, but the Jets had five chances.
“We just needed to be a little harder on bodies, a little harder on the puck,” said Elliott, who was replaced by Hart after allowing four first-period goals, though he could be faulted for only one them. “I wanted to come out a little better than that. It was disappointing.”