Goalie Antero Niittymaki was shelled in a 5-1 defeat by Calgary last night, but the Flyers' biggest loss may have occurred when center Danny Briere left late in the second period and did not return.

The question is: Will he return this season?

It is the fourth time Briere has suffered a groin or abdominal injury this season; he has undergone two surgeries and was playing in just his third game after being sidelined since Dec. 2.

All told, he has played in 12 games this season.

Briere left the Wachovia Center before reporters arrived after the game, but general manager Paul Holmgren painted a glum picture after the center's fourth injury this season. Holmgren said the injury may have occurred when Briere was tied up in the corner early in the second period, and added that "there was a little bit of a bubble of blood in there."

"Right now, all we know is that he tweaked his groin again and we'll see how it is [today]," a somber Holmgren said. "He's having a little tough time right now, probably as much mentally as physically."

The Flyers may promote Jared Ross from the AHL Phantoms.

As for the game, the Flyers were sloppy, committing 21 giveaways - two fewer than their previous three games combined.

Niittymaki, who was 7-2-1 in his previous 10 appearances, was also off his game. He allowed four first-period goals and was replaced by Marty Biron at the start of the second period.

The Flyers suffered their third loss in four games.

Coach John Stevens had alternated goalies in each of the team's previous six games, but he gave Niittymaki his second straight start after a strong performance in Tuesday's 4-2 win in Boston. Niittymaki usually plays well against Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, Stevens said.

Center Olli Jokinen, acquired from Phoenix on Wednesday, scored two goals to lead Calgary, which handed the Flyers their worst home loss of the season.

"It sure looked like we didn't have any energy tonight," Stevens said. "It looked like men against boys."

The Flyers' recent tailspin has occurred after they made a handful of roster moves.

A coincidence? Maybe.

Or maybe the Flyers' chemistry is out of sync after they lost three popular players - Glen Metropolit and Ossi Vaananen on waivers, and Scottie Upshall in a trade to Phoenix.

"I don't have an answer; it was just an awful effort by our hockey team right through our lineup," Stevens said. "The only bright spot I saw was Marty."

"You never like to see guys go, but we've all been around . . . and you have to be professional," winger Joffrey Lupul said. "No one likes to lose a friend, but you can't let it affect your play on the ice. We have to be better than that."

"This was one of those games where, hopefully, Adam [Patterson, the team's video coordinator] has already deleted it from my computer and I'll move on," Stevens said.

Unfortunately, he can't delete the injury to Briere.

"You just hope it's going to be minor," Biron said. "The last two or three games, he was starting to get back in form and you could see the great things he can do, so we hope he'll be back soon enough."