THERE ARE a lot of Flyers games in which it seems that they can't stay out of the penalty box, and the five suspensions they've incurred have drawn the attention of the leagues' referees.

It would certainly seem so just by looking at the number of penalty minutes the Flyers have piled up in their 31 games.

As of yesterday, the Flyers were second in the league in penalty minutes with 605, topped only by Anaheim, which has 706. And watching games like the win in Minnesota, where the Flyers were flagged for nine penalties compared to the Wild's three, it would seem the Flyers are constantly on the wrong end of the whistle.

The fact is, a lot of those minutes have to do with the game misconducts and majors that came with those five big incidents. And in 31 games, the Flyers led in penalties only 17 times and won 10.

Still, coach John Stevens would like to start trimming the time his team is shorthanded.

"I don't know what the final total was, but you've still got to play the game hard," he said after the Flyers' loss to the Devils Sunday night. "We're still trying to sort through what is and what isn't a penalty. The one guy gets his stick knocked out of his hands [slashing] and, I don't know, that's just a battle for the puck.

"I want our team playing hard," he said.

"We've got to keep playing hard and just get rid of the ones that are undisciplined penalties."

But there are some where it just seems as if the Flyers can't get away with anything, like the bench minor against Carolina for too many men.

"We had one foot on the bench and one foot in the air," he said. "That should have been blown down as an illegal line change but not a penalty.

"Penalties happen and we certainly draw our share, but you don't want to get into those situations when you play teams that have a dangerous power play. We want to play aggressive, but you don't want to take penalties that I call 'lazy' penalties, hooking from behind. If you negate scoring chances, those are penalties you can live with."

Injury updates

Simon Gagne (concussion) continues to increase his daily workouts and is inching closer to returning. According to John Stevens, the Flyers are waiting for Gagne to tell them he is feeling good enough to take a base-line test. From then, he would be cleared for contact and the team can start to look for a date they can target for his first game back.

Simon Gagne (concussion) continues to increase his daily workouts and is inching closer to returning. According to John Stevens, the Flyers are waiting for Gagne to tell them he is feeling good enough to take a base-line test. From then, he would be cleared for contact and the team can start to look for a date they can target for his first game back.

"We're still waiting for that clearance," Stevens said. "He's still working, he skated again [Sunday] and we're trying to get him back in shape. Once he gets the OK to get involved in full scale practice we'll see how he does."

Kimmo Timonen (lower back) was feeling better yesterday, according to general manager Paul Holmgren, and could be available for tonight against Phoenix.

"If everything goes OK, his plan will be to skate [this] morning with the team and hopefully play," Holmgren said.

Snap shots

Joffrey Lupul was selected the NHL's third star of the week for his play over the last four games in which he scored 10 points on six goals and four assists, including two hat tricks . . . After back-to-back games over the week, the Flyers had a complete day off yesterday. They will have three games this week, today against Phoenix at home, then Friday and Saturday, away and home, against the Buffalo Sabres. Then, for the first time a very long time, the Flyers will take a 3-day break, practice and play a game at home on Dec. 27 before starting their annual post-holiday road excursion. This year it will be six straight road games. *

Joffrey Lupul was selected the NHL's third star of the week for his play over the last four games in which he scored 10 points on six goals and four assists, including two hat tricks . . . After back-to-back games over the week, the Flyers had a complete day off yesterday. They will have three games this week, today against Phoenix at home, then Friday and Saturday, away and home, against the Buffalo Sabres. Then, for the first time a very long time, the Flyers will take a 3-day break, practice and play a game at home on Dec. 27 before starting their annual post-holiday road excursion. This year it will be six straight road games. *