FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Scott Hartnell knew that John Stevens was checking out the league leaders in minor penalties.

Stevens just looked at Hartnell and started chuckling.

"You're right up there in the top 10," the Flyers' coach told his winger. "But you've got good company. [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Alex] Ovechkin are up there, too."

Stevens wasn't upset with Hartnell. In fact, he has been happy with Hartnell's play since he benched him during a game on Long Island early in the season.

"I think he's played well, but he's around the puck a lot and he gets caught up in the game sometimes, but I think he's been a good player this year," Stevens said.

What Stevens is not happy with, and is concerned about, is the amount of penalties the Flyers have taken this season. They get into penalty trouble in every game; most are holding and hooking calls that can be avoided.

The Flyers have had 174 power plays but have been shorthanded 238 times, third most in the NHL, for a differential of 64. It's a real problem that is costing them games, as it did Tuesday against Florida. After taking five of the game's first seven penalties, the Flyers were down 3-1 and deep in a hole with tired players on the bench.

They cannot continue to play like that and expect to compete for a championship. So Stevens is looking at film, score sheets and league statistical records to see where his team stands and how he can change it.

"I'm going to try and go back for at least the last 10 games and see what patterns are forming," Stevens said. "We talked about this a week or 10 days ago, when we didn't have practice time.

"I think the last time we were in Florida and we were defending, this happened. We were kind of reaching for bodies and not moving our feet and certainly those are some penalties we can get rid of."

Hartnell is one of those players who gets into penalty trouble, and it's not just because he likes to be where the puck is or likes to stir things up. And he knows it.

"It seems like most of our penalties are little hooks and holds, and that has to do with being on the wrong side of guys or getting beat off the wall when you have to put yourself in that position," Hartnell said.

"We need to do a better job of fronting guys and not putting ourselves in the position to take those penalties. As soon as you get your stick in a guy's gut or on his hands, you're going to get 2 minutes.

"It's been like that now for 4 or 5 years. You have to know those calls are going to come and you have to make a conscious effort of knowing the time of the game and not doing that."

One of the more common perceptions is that the Flyers get penalized because they have an age-old reputation of playing dirty. It's something that started in the 1970s and has never gone away. Mike Richards mentioned it after Tuesday's loss, and other players have said the same thing.

But all of them know the reality is that they are responsible for taking most of the penalties.

"I'm not going to come up with a conspiracy theory or anything," winger Mike Knuble said. "Some of them are hooks and trips and things where we can probably move our feet more, and we've been lucky that it hasn't cost us a lot more than it has so far.

"It's demanding for the guys who kill penalties, it keeps other guys on the bench and not as much into the game. It affects the overall flow of things. If it was just a few penalties more than everyone else, then it wouldn't be a big deal, but it's 10 to 15 percent more than what everyone else has."

And there is the fact that they don't get calls that go their way.

"It is funny how we don't get them, isn't it?'' Knuble said. "Is everyone else skating that much more than us? I don't know. It seems when we get the power-play opportunities, we're pretty efficient, but you can fall into a trap where you're waiting around for power plays and obviously we're not getting them."

One guy who was particularly unhappy was defenseman Kimmo Timonen, whose interference penalty late in the Florida game nullified the tying goal.

"That [being the Flyers] has something to do with it, too, but I think when we're standing still or not skating enough, we start hooking and holding and that kind of stuff," Timonen said.

"I think if you can keep moving your legs and can cycle the puck and do that more, that will help us and we won't have to take as many penalties.

"Penalties happen, and I'm sure because we're the Flyers, that has something to do with it. But that's not the main reason. It's us. We've got to be better at moving our feet." *