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Flyers hope to hear fewer whistles while they work

John Stevens has had the penalty talk with his team this season. In fact, he's had it several times. It's just not sinking in the way he wants it to.

John Stevens has had the penalty talk with his team this season. In fact, he's had it several times. It's just not sinking in the way he wants it to.

So yesterday, the Flyers' coach had the talk again and then called penalties during practice to try to get the point across. He wanted his players to see that taking minor penalties - three, four, five in a row - is costing them games and points.

"We realize it right now," said Joffrey Lupul, a day after losing at home to the Boston Bruins, 3-1, in a game in which the Flyers killed three straight penalties in the second period. "We've been talking about it, especially on this road trip, that it's something that we have to rectify. It's killing us right now. We're not getting the opportunities on the power play that we were earlier in the year and our power play is not as successful.

"So now, we're going from the start of the year where we were really dominating that special-teams battle to right now where we're trailing in it, and it's making a big difference.

"We worked on it a lot today, [defensive zone] coverage and things like that," Lupul said. "[Stevens] was blowing the whistle down when guys we're taking penalties out there in practice. That's a start. Hopefully the message starts to get through."

It really should be a simple solution. Since the reinvention of the NHL and its no-obstruction rules, any stick put on a player's body parallel to the ice is a hook. If a guy falls, it's a trip.

The Flyers know that. The problem is they get behind the play, get outskated and start reaching to defend instead of defending from a position of strength.

"We've been talking about it," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "Going forward and making the playoffs, if we keep taking six and seven penalties a game we're not going to win."

That's the message Stevens has been trying to drive home for the last 6 weeks. The penalties are coming down, from five in a row some nights to three in a row against Boston on Wednesday. But the change is not happening fast enough.

"Awareness is probably one of the main things," Stevens said. "If we can make everyone aware. The one game it was all defensemen that took penalties, [Wednesday] it was all forwards. It's not as if it's the same area all the time.

"It's an awareness thing on our part as a team as to the way we need to play. That number did come down but it's still a lopsided number between what we draw and what we take.

"But it's like anything else, you're not going to snap your finger and the problem goes away. It's going to be a process."

Flu update

Mike Richards, Scottie Upshall and Braydon Coburn were still out with the flu yesterday, but John Stevens is hopeful they will recover in time to play tomorrow afternoon in Boston for the second game of the home-and-away.

Richards and Upshall missed the loss Wednesday and Coburn has not played or practiced since the victory in Tampa 1 week ago.

"We hope so," Stevens said. "The word is they are all starting to feel better. So hopefully they will all join us for practice [today] and play on the weekend."

Briere skating

Flyers center Danny Briere, recovering from a second abdominal surgery, is back on the ice and skating on his own at a preplanned pace that will keep him out for most of the month.

"He's skating lightly on his own," Stevens said. "And that's kind of the planned progression. Get him on the ice, get a little more intensity and see where it goes, but he's on schedule."

Baseball for Saunders

Flyers radio announcer Tim Saunders will be the new play-by-play voice of the Camden Riversharks, of baseball's independent Atlantic League.

"I've always wanted to try my hand at baseball, and it's something that I've kept in the back of my mind all these years," said Saunders, who has broadcast hockey for 17 years and been with the Flyers since 1997. "Nobody believes me when I say it, but I really think that baseball will be more difficult to do than hockey. It will be a fun challenge for me and I'm really looking forward to it." *