COLUMBUS, Ohio _ The Flyers continue to gain points, but their top line continues to be frustrated in even-strength situations.
It happened again Friday night in a 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus, which overcame a late 3-1 deficit (see story).
The top line _ Claude Giroux centering Brayden Schenn and Jake Voracek _ did not score in five-on-five play. Since Jan. 19, the unit has produced a combined total of one even-strength goal.
"They're not playing the right way, for the most part," coach Craig Berube said after Friday's excruciating loss. "They're not working together very well. To me, they have to work harder and they have to play a simpler game.
"They have to work together, and I don't see that right now," he added.
Excluding empty-net tallies, that line has zero goals in the seven games since the all-star break. (Schenn has one goal in that span, but it was on a different line.)
It's difficult to criticize the top line because it carried the Flyers' offense during a sensational and consistent three-month period.
The Flyers, however, desperately need the top line to start producing again if they are going to make a serious run at a playoff spot. They inched to within seven points of Boston on Friday.
Voracek, whose team has an eight-game points streak (5-0-3), says his line is working hard, but needs to play with more intelligence.
"Sometimes, we overwork things," said Voracek, who is second in the NHL with 60 points. "We just want to get things done so much that we're just not in the right positions, or not making the smartest play. It's not about work ethic. I think we're working really hard, but we've just got to be smarter."
Lately, the fourth (centered by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare) and second line (centered by Sean Couturier) have been the Flyers' most effective units.
There's a good chance Michael Raffl, sidelined by pneumonia since Jan. 27, returns to the lineup Sunday night in Buffalo. It wouldn't be surprising if Berube puts him at left wing on the top unit and dropped the struggling Schenn down to another line.
Raffl has 12 goals in 40 games and is plus-6.
"If we need him Sunday, he'll be available," GM Ron Hextall said.
Mason update. Hextall was upbeat on Steve Mason's recovery from arthroscopic surgery, saying the 26-year-old goalie could be ready to skate late next week.
Hextall said Mason had a tear in his meniscus repaired, and that a "little fragment was removed."
"It doesn't disrupt your knee and there's not a lot of swelling," Hextall added. "No surgery is minimal, but this is probably one of the more minimal areas of your body in terms of inflammation…and that's why you recover so quickly."
Breakaways. Columbus had been 0-20 when trailing after two periods....Winger Wayne Simmonds had his second three-point game of the season; he leads the Flyers with 21 goals….Amazingly, Giroux has no five-on-five goals at home this season, according to HockeyAnalysis.com….The Flyers have lost six straight in Columbus…..Defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who missed Friday's game because of the death of his grandmother, is expected to be back in the lineup Sunday…..In their next three games, the Flyers play Buffalo twice, sandwiched around a rematch with Columbus….Braydon Coburn (foot) is "possible" for Sunday, Hextall said....Rob Zepp, returning from an ankle injury, made 29 saves in the Phantoms' 3-2 loss to Binghamton on Friday. He could be recalled by the Flyers to serve as Sunday's backup. Anthony Stolarz is expected to soon be sent back to the Phantoms.