The answer was short and sweet, but equally as baffling.

Why did it take 67 games for Craig Berube to scratch R.J. Umberger? Why now? Why Tuesday night, all of a sudden, with just 15 games to play, after the Flyers' playoff chances were already shot?

"Because I just wanted to, that's why," Berube responded. "I wanted Vinny (Lecavalier) back in there tonight. I liked what I saw with other guys, so that's why I made the switch."

It was a move that could and should have been made in November.

Umberger, 32, has collected just 9 goals and 6 assists for 15 points. He netted more than that (18) in a dismal 48-game lockout shortened season. Umberger hasn't scored in 18 straight games.

Now, he is a healthy scratch for the second consecutive March, after he was benched for the Blue Jackets' most important games of the stretch run last year.

"I can't say my game's been real well. I don't have too many feet to stand on right now and disagree," Umberger said. "It's disappointing that it's at this time of the year, when the team needs it most, and I'm not around."

Umberger said it's been a tough year, "more than anyone knows." He still has two years left after this one at a $4.6 million salary cap hit, second only among forwards to Claude Giroux.

"It's been the hardest year of my career," Umberger said. "It's had a bunch of low points in it for different reasons. I've been fighting all year trying to figure it out and it hasn't really come to me. It's just tough right now."

He admitted playing up to the level that Scott Hartnell has proven difficult, adding another layer of frustrating to the June 23, 2014 trade. Hartnell, also 32, has 43 points and 16 goals, producing slightly above his career average.

"I'd lie if I said I didn't (see it, hear it, feel the trade chatter)," Umberger said. "I know what type of guy Hartnell was in the locker room and how all these guys enjoyed having him here and the success he's had. He's done pretty well in Columbus. So yeah, when things aren't going well, that's added pressure. You feel that.

"I think the biggest thing bothering me is I feel like I've let Hextall down. He believed in me bringing me here and I feel like I haven't been the player that he needs."

The subsequent lineup changes, including moving Wayne Simmonds to play with Sean Couturier and Matt Read, plus the formation of a more prototypical checking line of Ryan White, Zac Rinaldo and Michael Raffl, seem to make all the sense in the world.

Berube's biggest criticism so far has been the deployment and usage of players. He seemed to address some of those on Monday, particularly by plugging Couturier with Simmonds.

"It's just a solid line all around," Berube explained. "I use them in checking roles, plus they produce for us as of late, I think. I've moved Simmonds around a little bit with (Claude) Giroux, but that (new) line is solid all around. They've got the opportunity to score goals, but they also play good defense."

That still doesn't explain the timing, other than a coach making one last swing at a long-gone playoff position and quite possibly, his job.

"Listen, we've got games left that we need to win," Berube said. "That's what we're looking for now."

On Twitter: @frank_seravalli