For the Flyers, it was a long, reflective summer.

The reason: They blew a 3-0 home lead in the sixth and final game of their opening-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Say goodbye to any Stanley Cup dreams.

Say hello to the bad taste that lingered in the offseason.

"Absolutely, it's there," defenseman Matt Carle said after yesterday's practice in Voorhees. "If you're a competitive hockey player, it's impossible not to have a bad taste in your mouth. I saw highlights over the summer, especially Game 6, and it's still kind of in the back of your mind . . . losing that lead. I think we're all out to prove we're a better team than that, and hopefully we can move forward."

The 3-0 Flyers get their first crack at the Penguins tonight, hosting Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, et al.

"When you're playing against the defending Stanley Cup champions, I think there's a little added bonus there," Carle said. "You want to have a good game, and because it's Pittsburgh and they're a big rival, it's magnified a bit more."

The Flyers will be trying to start a season 4-0 for the first time since 1995. Carle has played a big part in the impressive start, collecting a team-high six points - including four assists in one period Tuesday, tying an NHL record for a defenseman - and resembling the hotshot rookie who had 11 goals and 31 assists with San Jose in 2006-07.

Injury updates. Left winger James van Riemsdyk, who played just two shifts Tuesday after his head crashed into the boards in the second period, did not practice yesterday but said his injury was not serious. All concussion tests, he said, were negative.

"I feel a lot better today, so I'm sure it's a good sign," said van Riemsdyk, who was groggy Tuesday and did some light exercises yesterday.

General manager Paul Holmgren dropped strong hints that the rookie will sit out tonight's game.

Injured center Blair Betts did not have an MRI exam on his dislocated right shoulder yesterday because he couldn't lift his arm above his head, Holmgren said. Getting the arm above the head is necessary for the test.

Betts could be sidelined at least four weeks. The fourth-line center had been reducing Mike Richards' time on the penalty kill, keeping Richards more fresh in other situations. Richards has five goals, tied for the NHL lead entering last night.

Asham, Cote ready. Because of the injuries to Betts and van Riemsdyk, Arron Asham and Riley Cote might play tonight for the first time this season.

At yesterday's practice, Asham played right wing on a line with Darroll Powe and center Claude Giroux, while Cote and Dan Carcillo were wingers on a line centered by Ian Laperriere.

"It's unfortunate that a couple of guys got hurt, but there's an opportunity for other guys to step up," Cote said. "Ash and I have waited patiently. You just have to wait your turn and when you get your chance, take advantage."

With Betts out, Giroux, Mika Pyorala, and Powe will receive more time on the penalty kill. If van Riemsdyk is sidelined, Giroux would get more power-play time.

Richards got a bit of a break and did not skate yesterday.

Breakaways. As of yesterday, about 700 tickets were available for tonight's game. Until the remaining tickets are gone, fans attending today's Phillies game can bring their ticket stub to the Wachovia Center box office and purchase a $25 ticket to tonight's contest....About 400 tickets are available for Saturday's game against the Anaheim Ducks, whose team includes Cherry Hill's Bobby Ryan and former Flyers Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, and Steve Eminger.