TAMPA, Fla. - What's that smell?
No, the scent of the Flyers' stinky 3-13-1 stretch didn't follow them more than 1,000 miles from Philadelphia to Tampa.
It wasn't their freshly washed jerseys. And it wasn't their gloves or skates - the usual suspects.
Yesterday, the locker room just plain smelled. Worse than normal.
The Flyers were forced to cancel yesterday's practice at the St. Pete Times Forum because of an overnight sewage leak in their dressing room.
It turns out that the day off - and the laughs that came with it - may have been just what the doctor ordered. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said on Monday night, after the Flyers dropped a lifeless 4-1 contest against the Panthers, that his team needs to get back to having fun.
"It seems to me that we are very tense," Laviolette said. "We almost need to loosen it up. I think when you're lacking confidence you really need to put forth the work ethic, win a hockey game, have some fun doing it, you get a little bit of your swagger back.
"If you're carrying the weight of the world on you, if you're gripping your stick too tight, it can rule against you."
Chris Pronger, speaking via conference call, agreed that the Flyers could use this six-game road trip to bond and get back on the same page. Usually one of the biggest jokesters in the locker room, Pronger knows that a little levity never hurts.
"It's nice to get back on the road and kind of get away from everything and try to bond on the road and really find ourselves, find our identity again," Pronger said. "I think we've lost it through this last little stretch.
"Going on the road, getting together, having team dinners and being around the guys is always a good way to kind of get over what ails you."
Mike Richards said that the Flyers have been gripping their "sticks too tight" recently, but that doesn't make tonight's matchup with the Lightning - who have struggled in their own right - a laughing matter heading into the Christmas holiday. Instead, Richards sees it as an opportunity for the Flyers to wash the scent off.
"It's a big game for us to try and get our team on track," Richards said. "We need the points right now, so we're kind of looking at it as a little bit bigger than normal."
"We've got to let loose on the ice," Laviolette said yesterday. "I think sometimes you are carrying around everything else that goes with you and we have to drop all that, play a better game, play a game that's more creative. We just seem to be weighed down by what's going on. We need to drop that."
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren listed Brian Boucher as day-to-day with a lacerated right ring finger. Boucher did not make the trip to Tampa after leaving Monday's game when a point-blank shot from Florida's Michael Frolik cut him.
Monday was Boucher's ninth consecutive start, filling in for Ray Emery, who underwent abdominal surgery on Dec. 9.
Michael Leighton, who allowed two goals on 17 shots in relief of Boucher, will most likely start tonight. The Flyers scooped Leighton off re-entry waivers from Carolina last week.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the opportunity," Leighton said. "It's definitely unexpected what happened. I didn't really get this opportunity in Carolina. Cam Ward got hurt and they got Manny Legace and started him right away. It's definitely a good opportunity for me to just try to prove myself and get back into a little bit of a rhythm again."
As expected, Johan Backlund was recalled from Adirondack and joined the team in Florida yesterday. Backlund served as Boucher's backup for five games from Dec. 8-16 before Leighton was acquired, but did not appear in a game.
Darroll Powe was cleared yesterday to return to the Flyers lineup tonight against the Lightning. Powe, who has six goals in 19 games this season, missed the last 16 games with a dislocated left shoulder.
"I feel pretty good," Powe said yesterday. "I skated with the team [Monday] with no pain. It has been tough sitting back watching things not go so well. So it will be good to get back into the lineup and try and turn things around here."
Riley Cote could join Mika Pyorala, who was a healthy scratch on Monday night, in the press box as the Flyers need to make room for Powe.
Tampa Bay is coming off a 4-2 win over the Islanders that closed out a 2-3-1 road trip spanning 10 days and three time zones . . . Tonight will be Jeff Carter's 250th consecutive game played, tying him for fourth (with Brian Propp) on the Flyers' all-time Iron Man list . . . By allowing three power play goals on Monday, the Flyers' penalty kill slid to 26th in the NHL . . . The Boston Globe reported that scalpers were hawking tickets yesterday for what was supposed to be a free skate at Fenway Park for Boston residents. The City of Boston handed out 3,000 tickets at various locations only to find they were being sold on eBay and Craigslist for more than $450 a piece.
For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers.