NEW YORK _ Flyers coach Craig Berube surprisingly benched Andrew MacDonald _ who, when healthy, has been a first-pairing defenseman for most of the season _ for the team's game in New York on Saturday afternoon.
Berube also raised eyebrows when he played Vinny Lecavalier just 5:56 _ the fifth-lowest total of his 16-season, 405-goal career.
"You have to make tough decisions as a coach," Berube said.
The coach also benched fourth-line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The new lineup, which included defenseman Luke Schenn and center Chris VandeVelde, did little as the Flyers fell to the host Rangers, 5-2, for their eighth loss in the last nine games.
MacDonald, who signed a six-year $30 million deal last April, has not played well since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for 10 games. He was minus-3 over the five games since he returned.
"He has to play better; he hasn't moved the puck as well as he has, his intensity dropped off," Berube said after the Flyers' 10th straight regular-season loss at Madison Square Garden."I wanted him to watch a game and think about things. He's a good player, and we need him to be a good player."
As for Bellemare, Berube said he has not played with enough aggressiveness lately.
Lecavalier was limited to nine shifts; he had no shots and was minus-1. "He needs to work harder; he needs to be a better player, needs to play with more structure and needs to dig in more," Berube said.
Berube said Lecavalier was playing much better before a foot injury sidelined him for seven games earlier this season. "I thought he played well before he got hurt. Seemed like he was working hard, skating well, digging in," he said.
Lecavalier wasn't happy to get so little ice time.
"I didn't have too many shifts, and it's frustrating, for sure," said Lecavalier, who is goal-less in his last 12 games.
The Flyers start a three-game West Coast trip Tuesday in San Jose.
"I think we have a really good team and we just have to build the confidence," Lecavalier said. "I know it's a cliché, but you get that first win and you build from it. I think we've had spurts of playing the way we should, but not consistently. It's tough in the NHL if you're not consistent. We have to keep pushing."
The Flyers are sixth in the eight-team Metro Division, seven points behind the third-place Rangers.
Breakaways. Jake Voracek had his 11th multi-point game this season and lifted his points total to 32 _ one behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, the NHL leader, heading into Saturday night….Sean Couturier won 12 of 17 faceoffs (70.6 percent) and had a team-high four hits…VandeVelde and Nick Schultz each blocked three shots…The Flyers won 65 percent of the faceoffs....In their 10-game, regular-season losing streak at MSG, the Flyers have been outscored, 38-11....Blair Jones had a Gordie Howe hat trick, including two goals, in the Phantoms' 4-3 win over visiting Norfolk on Saturday before a sellout crowd in Allentown.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.