LOS ANGELES - No team in the NHL has played fewer road games than the Flyers, who face off against the Los Angeles Kings tonight in just their sixth road test of the season.
On Monday night, the Flyers beat the league's best road team and halted the Devils from becoming just the second team to open a season with 10 consecutive road wins.
Why is that? The Flyers beat the Devils at their own game, by jumping on the opposition early. In their first 17 games, the Flyers have scored the game's first goal 14 times.
In their last seven games - a run that includes six wins - the Flyers have outscored their opponents 7-1 in the first period. That has led to a 17-6 advantage through the first two periods in that seven-game stretch.
From there, the Flyers have been nearly lights out (10-0-1) with a lead after the second period.
"It's been important for us," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "I think our team has done a great job of keeping the game simple early and getting pucks deep. Our starts this year have been great. They've been a big factor in our early success this year."
Overall, the Flyers are 11-2-1 when scoring first.
"It's got to be a commitment with everyone on the team from the drop of the puck," forward Darroll Powe said. "So far, we've done that. We're ready for games and we know the importance of getting out to an early lead. It's something that we pride ourselves on.
"It's tough to win games in this league when you're trying to play catch-up. Teams have a way of shutting the game down when they're in the lead."
Stevens said that one part of success early in games is staying out of the penalty box. As a whole, the Flyers have been a much more disciplined team this year but staying out of trouble in the first period has helped them use their depth to their advantage.
"For the most part, we're not taking penalties," Stevens said. "That's important. It helps your start. It helps everybody get into the flow of the game. And it helps your team play with a lot of energy early on."
The Flyers know that getting a quick start on the road in the high-scoring Western Conference is especially important.
"I think it's a big reason why we've been winning games," Blair Betts said. "We want to come out and dictate the game and put the other team back on their heels."
Another part of the Flyers' game plan tonight will be trying to shutdown Anze Kopitar, who leads the NHL in both goals (14) and points (32). Kopitar has been playing on a line with former Flyer Justin Williams.
"He's got the whole package," Stevens explained. "He's a big guy, he's not a two-way player like [Mike] Richards and [Jeff] Carter are but he's got high-end skill. He's a playmaker but he can score. He protects the puck well, so he's a well-rounded offensive player."
Day in the life
You can bet that freshly recalled forward David Laliberte got some sleep last night in Los Angeles.
Laliberte, who is replacing injured forward Arron Asham on the trip, was relaxing and watching the Flyers game at his apartment in Glens Falls, N.Y., on Monday night when he got a call from Phantoms coach Greg Gilbert. Laliberte was told to pack his bags for Los Angeles to join the Flyers on their five-game road trip.
Laliberte posted three points in four games with the Flyers a week ago. He is expected to skate with Darroll Powe and Claude Giroux tonight.
Laliberte was picked up by a limousine at 3:45 a.m., which took him to the Albany, N.Y., airport. From there, he caught flights to Chicago and Los Angeles and ended up on the West Coast just in time for practice yesterday.
"I was really excited," Laliberte said. "But it was a long day. I'm going to have a good sleep."
Laliberte joked that he was looking forward to getting some sleep on the plane ride out to LA but was "stuck in the middle of two old ladies" who apparently would not stop talking.
Captain Mike Richards did not skate in yesterday's practice. It was a planned "maintenance" day for Richards, according to John Stevens . . . Stevens said that backup goaltender Brian Boucher will "definitely" start one game on this road trip, he just isn't sure which one yet. All signs point toward "Boosh" starting in Phoenix on Saturday night on the second leg of games in back-to-back nights. The Flyers play in San Jose on Friday . . . A replay of tonight's game will be aired on Comcast SportsNet tomorrow night at 7 . . . Claude Giroux centered David Laliberte and Darroll Powe yesterday, which means he will probably stay in the middle again tonight for the second game in a row . . . Defenseman Chris Pronger, who leads the team with 13 assists and the NHL in minutes played per game, has 33 points in 53 career games against Los Angeles.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.