WHEN THERE'S smoke, there's usually fire.

Simon Gagne said last week that he didn't feel right on the ice. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Gagne - who was battling through his longest start to a season without a goal - would be fine once he scored.

Gagne did that on Saturday, breaking his seven-game drought.

But he still didn't feel right on Sunday, telling the Flyers that he felt he didn't have the "power" to skate.

Gagne skated just one shift in the third period of Sunday's 4-1 loss to San Jose and missed practice yesterday.

"Simon has experienced some lower-body soreness," Holmgren said. "Right now we're not real concerned. He has been going through some issues."

Is it related to his May 28 hip surgery? "I'm not sure," Holmgren said. "That's what we're trying to get to the bottom of. He just doesn't feel right."

Holmgren said he "doesn't think anyone is sure" if it is Gagne's groin or hip, or a totally unrelated injury.

Gagne went for an ultrasound on his hip and groin area yesterday afternoon. Holmgren said last night that the Flyers would know more from the tests today. That makes Gagne doubtful for tonight's tilt with Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in Washington.

Holmgren initially thought it was a strength issue that plagued Gagne, since he missed time working out this summer with his rehab schedule.

With the words Holmgren chose yesterday, though, one couldn't help but wonder whether the GM - who fought through more than a few injuries during his playing career - was calling Gagne soft.

"I look at him sometimes and I think he looks fine," Holmgren said. "For whatever reason, he's got some issues. We're trying to get to the bottom of it.

"I think we've hit a stumbling block here. We need to get to the bottom of it for Simon's own good and find out where he's at. Hopefully we can find something that's wrong."

Quality time

Life on the road usually isn't fun. But the Flyers' annual father-son bonding trip is one that the players actually look forward to taking.

Most of the Flyers' fathers flew in from the far corners of the globe - Anchorage, Alaska, for Matt Carle's father, Bob - to watch their sons take on Florida and San Jose last weekend and travel to Washington with the team for tonight's game.

"Since he is from back in Alaska, I don't get to see him often," Matt Carle said. "It's nice to see family when you can.

"We make the commitment all year long, so we don't get to see them too often. When your parents come around, you always want to play better."

For some dads, the long weekend is a peek into life as an NHL player.

"I know the dads really enjoy seeing how it works, being in the NHL," Danny Briere said. "Before I came here, I never had the chance to live that [with my dad].

"I don't think it matters how young or old you are, it's a special time to bond with your dad."

The Flyers' fathers were going for a White House tour this morning while the players prepare for Ovechkin & Co.

Newcomer Mika Pyorala, whose family lives in Finland, said his father was disappointed he couldn't make the trip. The Pyoralas will visit Mika in January during a string of home games.

"I'm sure he would've liked to come," Pyorala said. "It's a long way and he is working. They're staying up late and watching all of the games on the Internet. They have the computer hooked up to their TV. My dad used to coach me in youth hockey and juniors; they basically live hockey. They are my biggest fans."

That's what makes this trip so special - nearly every player has his biggest fan watching.

Slap shots

Ryan Parent skated with the team for the first time since straining his groin on Oct. 16 in Florida. Parent said he felt better but is unlikely to return tonight . . . Blair Betts, who has skated without much contact since dislocating his right shoulder on Oct. 6, is likely to return on Saturday (Halloween) against Carolina . . . Riley Cote will replace Simon Gagne in the lineup . . . Ray Emery will start in net tonight . . . The Flyers worked on faceoffs again in practice yesterday after losing 41 of 64 to the Sharks on Sunday. *

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.