TAMPA, Fla. - Flyers forwards Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell are upset that a blogger has spread a rumor - which the players strongly deny - at the expense of people's reputations.

In this case, the reputations are those belonging to Carter, Hartnell, and Hartnell's wife, Lisa.

On Dec. 14, a Temple University senior, Jerry Brennan, on a Web site that he said he created as part of a school project, made a posting. Under a headline that read "Affair Has Flyers Locker Room Split?", he wrote the following:

This one is out of the bizarre rumor mill, however, a credible source told "thephillyfour" a possible affair could be the reason the Flyers' locker room appears to be split this season.

According to the source, Jeff Carter had an affair with Scott Hartnell's wife, and the entire locker room is split over the situation. . . .

Carter and Hartnell said that the rumor is false, that they are best of friends, and that the writer doesn't realize the hurt feelings he has caused. The "story" has been picked up by numerous Web sites.

Both players didn't want to use the "story" to explain their on-ice struggles or the team's. But both are obviously weighed down by the developments.

"I don't know how they dreamed those stories up. It really plays on guys' minds. Guys are dealing with personal issues, and that's the last thing you need is people talking about sleeping with other guys' wives and all sort of stupid stuff," Hartnell said after yesterday's morning skate in Tampa.

"It's obviously frustrating. I don't know how a person [the writer] can sleep with himself at night when he does something like that. I've been buddies with Carts for a few years now, and obviously that stuff is totally untrue."

Carter said the story "makes me look like an idiot. The guy is dealing with lives, and he doesn't realize it."

Peter Luukko, president of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, called the blog "vicious and irresponsible" and said the organization is considering a lawsuit.

"It's just funny to see how much pull one guy can have," Hartnell said of the article and how it has spread throughout North America. "It's an amazing thing, the Internet, but for all the good things there are obviously some bad things about it, too."

Hartnell added, "When [the blog] came out, I heard from my wife. She called me and [kiddingly] said, 'I guess I'm sleeping with Jeff Carter now,'"

Discussing his relationship with Carter, he said, "I searched our names, and all these stories come up; it's hard to deal with, but you don't want to make excuses for the way we're playing. . . . Carts is an amazing player to play with, a great guy off the ice, but we just haven't been able to put the puck in the net like last year."

Entering last night, Carter had 12 goals and Hartnell had nine. At a corresponding point last season, Carter had scored 26 goals, and Hartnell had 13.

"You can't blame it on the Internet or these bloggers," Hartnell said. "Then they think they've won the battle."

While some Flyers, speaking anonymously, say the rumor has affected Hartnell's and Carter's performances, those two players disagree.

Brennan, 22, the Temple senior who wrote the blog and suggested that the incident may cause the Flyers to trade Carter or Hartnell, would not disclose his source. He said it was not a player or someone from the public-relations department.

"Someone I know works for the Flyers, and I wrote it as a rumor," he said earlier this week. "I didn't write it as a fact in case the guy was wrong. I didn't want to be unfair because I didn't witness it."

He said it was a "credible source" who "works close to the players. I didn't make it up."

Brennan, who said he used to be an intern at WIP-AM (610), said he was surprised by the reaction the story has created in Internet chat rooms, because "I didn't know anyone read my Web site. I didn't do it to make a name for myself. I did it to practice writing and reporting."

After the blog appeared, Zack Hill, the Flyers' senior director of communications, contacted Brennan and told him the story was untrue.

This is the second time in recent months that a Philadelphia professional athlete has been tarred by an obscure blog. In the other case, a blogger speculated, with no sources, that Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez might be using performance-enhancing drugs. Ibanez denounced the blog post.