SUNRISE, Fla. - After the Flyers' 3-2 loss to Florida Tuesday, captain Mike Richards implied that the huge penalty discrepancy his club has this season was due, in part, to the franchise's bad-boy reputation that goes back more than three decades.

In other words, the Broad Street Bullies are haunting the current Flyers.

For the season, the Flyers have had 174 power plays and have been shorthanded 238 times.

That minus-64 discrepancy is the highest in the NHL. By far.

Stephen Walkom, the NHL's director of officiating, did not return calls yesterday about Richards' comments.

The Flyers have had more power plays than their opponents in just nine of 47 games. The opponents have had more power plays in 24 games. The teams have had an equal number of power plays 14 times. The problem is accentuated on the road: They've have had more power plays than their opponents in just four of 24 road games.

"If we're thinking about the playoffs, if you take too many penalties there, we're going to lose for sure, so we have to make sure we correct those things," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said after yesterday's practice here.

A marginal interference call on Timonen negated Richards' game-tying third-period goal Tuesday. After the game, Richards suggested that Keith Ballard - the defenseman Timonen knocked to the ice - dramatized the hit and that the penalty should not have been called.

Just as he did Tuesday, coach John Stevens was careful not to criticize the referees yesterday. But he did not shoot down a theory that the Flyers are paying for the franchise's reputation.

"I really do believe there's an aura about the Flyers. There's a tradition, an identity that's been there. It will always be there," Stevens said. "The Flyer teams play hard, and they're an aggressive team. You look at the Super Bowl coming up, and they're talking about the linebackers in Pittsburgh. Coaches have changed, but the whole identity of a Pittsburgh linebacker has never changed. So there's certainly some things historically that stay with teams, and certainly our aggressive play suits us. That year we got away from it, we weren't a very good team."

This season, the Flyers lead the league with an average of 18.4 penalty minutes per game.

"I think we have to be aggressive, but I do think there are times [we] can be sharper and not put yourself in a position to take penalties," Stevens said. "You can learn to defend better with not getting involved [illegally]. I think we've done a great job of not getting involved in scrums after the whistle, because those clearly are situations where, based on our reputation, we're going to come out on the bottom end."

Timonen said when the Flyers are "standing still or not skating enough, we start hooking and holding and that kind of stuff. 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 and that kind of stuff."

Stevens, whose team has called for an inexplicable 11 penalties for having too many men on the ice, has a simple solution to reducing the infractions: "Don't turn the puck over as much, and play in the offensive zone, where you're going to draw penalties and not take them," he said.

"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," said winger Scott Hartnell.