The Flyers are on a brief holiday break, giving them time to spend with their families - and perhaps reflect a bit on their 11-plus weeks of solid, gritty hockey.

Aided by the rapid development of several rookies, the Flyers have overcome a slew of injuries and have put together a 21-9-4 record - and are one point behind the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins.

The positives have outweighed the negatives. By far.

The problem is, one of the few negatives has been at the most important position - goaltender.

Ilya Bryzgalov hasn't played up to expectations. His 14-7-3 record is misleading, based more on the offensive support he has received than his strong play.

With star defenseman Chris Pronger sidelined for the rest of the season because of severe post-concussion syndrome, Bryzgalov needs to step up his game if the Flyers are going to be a serious Stanley Cup challenger.

Bryzgalov, 31, has had some very good stretches, but he has been much too inconsistent for someone of his pedigree.

Overall, he has a 2.92 goals-against average (34th in the NHL) and .895 save percentage (41st). He has struggled at home, where he is 6-5-1 with a 3.45 goals-against average and .882 save percentage. In games against the East's top two teams, the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, he is 1-2 with a 4.14 GAA and .851 save percentage.

The Flyers did not give him a nine-year, $51-million contract because they expected those numbers.

Bryzgalov is coming off Friday's 4-2 loss against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Two of the goals he allowed were on deflections and another was on a breakaway.

"I don't know what to do, guys," Bryzgalov said after the game. "Maybe we should play tighter defense and box out the guys."

He called the deflected goals "bad luck, bad karma" and said he would push forward. He is one of the Flyers' hardest workers in practice.

"I don't know what to do but continue to work. I hope someday it's going to change," said Bryzgalov, who has been noticeably sharper against Western Conference teams, perhaps because he is familiar with their tendencies. "A new year is coming. Maybe in the new year everything is going to be different."

He has played only 25 games with the Flyers, so there is time to steady himself and start to resemble the goalie who excelled in Phoenix. Bryzgalov will get a chance to get back on track Tuesday against the host Tampa Bay Lightning. That is, if coach Peter Laviolette gives him the start.

Backup Sergei Bobrovsky has been more consistent. The second-year goalie is 7-2-1 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.