BOSTON - For the first time in weeks, there was a palpable buzz in the Flyers' dressing room yesterday at the TD Garden.
It wasn't "morbid," as Scott Hartnell foreshadowed on Dec. 4, the day John Stevens was sent packing.
"Everyone is pretty angry," forward Blair Betts said, "with what's happened over the last week and the new coaching staff coming in."
The first seven losses in 10 games didn't seem to have the same effect that Saturday night's emotionless, 4-1 loss did on the Flyers. This is a ticked-off team - one that finally seems ready to take the bull by the horns.
"We got embarrassed," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It should've been a little tough to sleep for everybody. It's hard to walk out of that game with a fluffy feeling. Everyone should be a little [ticked] off and upset."
For a team that is just 1-4 under the "fresh voice" of Laviolette, the pressure falls on Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, the one who pulled the trigger on Stevens.
The next move is usually a trade. The Flyers, just 2-10-0 in their last 12 games, are feeling that pressure.
"We all feel it," Betts said. "We have the guys in here to [win]. We've shown it before. We just haven't come out on top. Everyone seems pretty upset about what happened."
"We know we have the capabilities in this locker room," said rookie James van Riemsdyk. "We can't afford to not play our best. We're in a little bit of a hole right now with where we are back in the standings."
The first of those moves may be what the Daily News reported on the Frequent Flyers blog: the signing of goalie John Grahame.
Holmgren denied Saturday that Grahame, who is on an AHL tryout deal, was signed with the purpose of playing for the Flyers. Conventional wisdom suggests otherwise.
Ray Emery is out until at least Jan. 20, and current Flyers backup Johan Backlund is in his first North American pro season.
Grahame, 34, has appeared in 224 NHL games, won a Stanley Cup and played for Laviolette. He was playing in a men's league after being exiled from Russia, supposedly for a drinking problem.
The move looks desperate. And it is. Holmgren needed a cheap, quick fix.
Laviolette doesn't want to see anyone moved.
"There's good players in that room," Laviolette said, pointing to the Flyers' locker room. "I'm not looking for a trade. We've got good players coming back at some point this week. I'm looking for our guys to dig in."
He says that his system - which includes a risky offensive style, a strong and structured team concept and rigid discipline - takes time.
"These guys don't like change," Laviolette said. "Change is hard. Change is tough. This is a complete change in philosophy. In Carolina, it didn't happen right away."
Laviolette called out Danny Briere yesterday for his crosschecking penalty against the Devils and made him skate in front of the entire team.
Briere - and the entire Flyers offense - has been mired in an ugly scoring slump. They have scored just 22 times in 12 games. There has been no secondary scoring pickup from players like van Riemsdyk, who has just one point in his last 11 games after scoring 18 in his first 16 games.
Until yesterday, there seemed to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Darroll Powe, Betts and Simon Gagne all hoped to return from injury at some point this week. Dan Carcillo is ready to return tonight from his four-game suspension.
Then Braydon Coburn became the latest to go down on the Wheel of Misfortune with an injury.
Coburn, who was seen in a walking boot, flew back to Philly to have his ankle examined by doctors. Holmgren listed him as day-to-day. That leaves Ole-Kristian Tollefsen to play tonight for the first time since Nov. 7.
"We're trying to take new things and make them comfortable and make them compete," Laviolette said. "If you take the compete out, it doesn't matter what you do. You'll lose."
For the first time in a while, that fire could be back.
"I don't think anyone predicted us to be in the spot we are right now," Betts said. "I know there's a lot of games left in the season, but we have a pretty big hill to climb. I think you'll see a different team [tonight]."
Five Flyers (pictured above) visited a rainy Fenway Park yesterday afternoon for a tour. They stood on the protective plastic skids that will serve as a bed for the ice surface in between first and third bases. The Flyers will face the Boston Bruins there Jan. 1 in the NHL's Winter Classic.
The NHL's ice team, led by Dan Craig, will begin installing the boards and glass today. The ice will be ready by Dec. 18, when the Red Sox and the City of Boston take over the surface for public and private events.
By the numbers
0: Number of games, excluding last Tuesday's six-goal outburst against the Islanders, that the Flyers have scored more than two goals in their last eight contests.
1: Number of points for James van Riemsdyk in his last 11 games, after reeling off 18 points in his first 16 NHL games.
2-22-0: The combined record for the Flyers and Sixers in the last 24 games. At one point, the two Wachovia Center inhabitants had won just one in 19.
The week ahead
Tonight, 7 o'clock
Boston could make a claim as one of the NHL's hottest teams. Before Saturday's loss, the Bruins were 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. Boston presents a balanced scoring threat: Nine players have double-digit points. Former Flyer Mark Recchi, 41, is third on the team with 17 points. The Flyers beat the Bruins, 4-3 in a shootout, on Oct. 22.
Tomorrow, 7 o'clock
For the second week in a row, the Flyers open a week with back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday. This Tuesday they are on the other side of the Keystone State. Unlike the Flyers, Pittsburgh had a few days to rest. Sidney Crosby is back to his usual self, third in the NHL in goals (20) and fourth in points (38).
Thursday, 7 o'clock
The second meeting of the teams in 2 days, and the Penguins will have four games in hand. The Flyers are 16 points behind. Surprisingly, with all of their offensive firepower, the Penguins are second to last on the power play. They do have the league's fifth-best offense with 3.06 goals per game and Marc-Andre Fleury (2.44 GAA, .905 save percentage) in net.
vs. New York Rangers
Saturday, 1 o'clock
Somehow, Saturday is the Flyers' first matchup with their Atlantic Division rivals. It only took 3 1/2 months. After an 8-2 start to the season, the Rangers (14-15-2) have fallen back to earth. Marian Gaborik (22 goals, 41 points) was easily the NHL's best offseason pickup.