ST. PAUL, MINN. - John Stevens has yet to sit a player he felt was not up to speed.

Until last night.

Stevens took Lasse Kukkonen out of the lineup and replaced him with Rory Fitzpatrick, who is normally the seventh man in the Flyers defensive rotation.

The Flyers coach downplayed his action and said Kukkonen was "a little bit banged up," but made it clear that he was not happy with the Finnish defenseman's play.

"[Kukkonen] has played well but I don't think he's played well as of late, and we have a healthy body sitting there so we decided to get him in. And we wanted to take advantage of [Fitzpatrick's] righthand shot.

"We were very upfront with [Kukkonen]. We talked about the parts of his game that need to get better. He's certainly been a very good player for us in a lot of games and he's a great kid.

"He admittedly wants to play better. He's quick on pucks, he doesn't turn pucks over, he makes simple plays and has a lot of composure with the puck."

This is not something Stevens has done this year. He has had players who rotate in and out of the lineup including Ben Eager and Riley Cote, but Cote is serving the first of his three-game suspension.

Eager was also out of the lineup last night and replaced by Steve Downie, who was called up from the Phantoms on Monday.

Downie was the first of five Flyers suspended this season for taking a dangerous head shot of an opposing player in a preseason game. His 20-game suspension ended last week; he made his NHL debut last night.

In addition to calling Kukkonen out for his play, Stevens was critical of Jim Dowd.

"[Dowd is] an experienced guy, kind of a versatile guy who can play a lot of situations," Stevens said. "I thought he played extremely well earlier in the year, I don't think he's played as well of late and that's self-admitted on his part.

"He's aware of it. He's a guy you don't have to say a lot to. He would make a good coach someday because he seems to understand the game really well. He's objective, he can self-analyze himself when he's not playing well."

Dowd agreed:

"Definitely," he said. "You want to be consistent every night and try to give a little more. Playing on the line that I'm on you try to bring energy and it's my job to get that going as centerman. I'm hard on myself and it's a matter of being consistent."

Snap shots

General manager Paul Holmgren said the Flyers may be interested in bringing former Flyer Mark Recchi back. Recchi was waived by the Penguins Tuesday and was not claimed by any team.

General manager said the Flyers may be interested in bringing former Flyer back. Recchi was waived by the Penguins Tuesday and was not claimed by any team.

If the Penguins want to bring him back he would again be exposed as a re-entry waiver and could be claimed for half his current $1.75 million salary.

Recchi has only two goals and eight points in 19 games.

"If Mark Recchi still wants to play, that would be my only question," Holmgren said. "I'm assuming he does. If he still wants to play, someone will claim him.

"If he's [available], we would certainly discuss it. But from a point of where would we put him, the issue of [Simon] Gagne coming back here in the near future, I don't know. We have an abundance of forwards but we would certainly have to discuss it.''

Recchi stands eighth on the Flyers' all-time scoring list with 232 goals, 395 assists, 627 points. He still holds the Flyers' single-season scoring mark, 123, set in 1992-93. *