ATLANTA _ Chris Pronger and Ian Laperriere, the Flyers' veteran leaders, were incredulous about the team's listless 5-2 loss to lowly Atlanta on Saturday.
     So was head coach Peter Laviolette.
     The visiting Flyers showed little offense _ they had a total of 12 shots in the first two periods _ and their defensemen allowed the Thrashers to camp around the net all night as they fell to an inexplicable 0-3 against Atlanta this season.
     The Flyers were fortunate to stay in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but they need a much better effort Sunday night if they are going to beat Atlanta at the Wachovia Center.
     The Flyers have 11 games left, and if they play like they did Saturday, it won't matter who they face in the    playoffs. They will be first-round fodder.
     It should be noted that the Flyers have been one of the NHL's most consistent teams the last 10 weeks. Since Jan. 6, only Washington has a better record.
     But they are fading at in an inopportune time. They finished 1-2-1 on the road trip, one that started at ended with clunkers against the Rangers and Thrashers, respectively.
     Laviolette was puzzled as to how the Flyers didn't match the Thrashers' intensity.
    "You can talk the talk; ultimately, though, it comes down to how you walk. And they walked with a pretty good swagger and a pretty good pace tonight," he said. "We played like it was just another game."
    Said Pronger: "We haven't been able to get any consistency through the course of the season. We're getting down to the nitty-gritty. We need to find it."
     The defensive pairing of Braydon Coburn (minus-three) and Ryan Parent (minus-2) struggled mightily. It wouldn't be surprising if Oskars Bartulis is inserted into the lineup Sunday.
    Atlanta moved to within a point of Boston for the eighth and final East playoff spot.
   "We need those points as much as they do," said Laperriere, whose team has the same amount of points as Ottawa and Montreal. "We're not in the playoffs by any means."
     The Flyers are just six points ahead of the ninth-place Thrashers.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Early in the game, Laperriere lost a decision to Eric Boulton in his 200th NHL fight.
    "That's pretty much shows that I have been around a long time," Laperriere said. "It is not something I came into the league thinking about. Fighting is part of my role to help my team win. I still think like that at 36. The day I change my mind I am going to have to retire because I won't be as effective."
     * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
     Breakaways. Dan Carcillo and Blair Betts scored for the Flyers…..Claude Giroux was minus-3……Mike Richards has one goal in the last eight games….. Atlanta blocked 21 shots _ 11 more than the Flyers…..Colby Armstrong, whom the Flyers tried to acquire before the trade deadline, had his second straight two-goal game…..Goalie Brian Boucher had little defensive support. Three of Atlanta's goals were scored on rebounds….Atlanta coach John Anderson expects a more competitive game Sunday. "Going into Philly will be a little tougher," he said. ""They're going to be a little more prepared. They're going to play hard."