ST. PAUL, Minn. -
Craig Berube thought about the question and paused.
His Flyers had just knocked off the reeling Minnesota Wild, 5-2, to sweep the first three games of this season-defining eight-game road slog.
As the bags were packed and the Flyers piled onto their Delta chartered flight for a merry ride home, Berube wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea of a 3-day break.
"Do you want to skip Christmas? I don't mind," Berube said, laughing.
But would his three young kids mind?
"They'll be OK," Berube responded.
Luckily for his players and their families, the NHL's mandatory 3 days off won't allow Berube to play the Grinch. Rest and recuperation are in order after the Flyers strung together three wins in three cities in two countries in four nights.
Believe it or not, many of the Flyers will still spend the holiday together anyway. The players not scampering to their hometowns today or spending time with their own families are planning to invade the home of defenseman Nick Schultz on Christmas day.
It will be a handful of players, Schultz's in-laws and his three kids (ages 7, 5 and 3) huddled around a table for a turkey dinner.
"My kids are pretty excited," Schultz said. "My daughter is already making name tags for everyone. It's a nice break. You've got momentum and it's going well. But Christmas is always fun. It's a good time to get away and regroup and refresh."
The refresh for the Flyers, apparently, came when Steve Mason needed help exiting the ice during practice last Friday. His injury cloaked the Flyers in pall heading out to begin this odyssey in Toronto, buried in the standings and limping after lifeless losses to Florida and Toronto.
Instead, the Flyers doubled their number of road wins (6-9-3) in the last four nights. They are now 4-0-2 in their last six games away from home, their longest point streak since Dec. 2-21, 2011.
"We played the way we should play on the road - hard and physical," said Vinny Lecavalier, who reinvented himself with three goals in the last two games. "It paid off for everybody."
Now, the reward is a significantly easier schedule. They open the other side of the Christmas break in Nashville - one of the surprise teams of the season under Peter Laviolette. But then they close with Arizona, Colorado, Carolina and New Jersey, teams hovering near the bottom of the standings.
The Flyers are still six points back of a wild-card spot. On Dec. 22 last year, the Rangers were the team six points back of a wild-card position - and they went on to play for the Stanley Cup. There are still 48 games to play.
"We had some lapses through each of these games where we weren't playing the way we wanted to," Andrew MacDonald said. "For the most part, I think we're getting there. We're doing a lot of good things and we're getting rewarded for them. I feel like everyone's getting on the same page."
What's been the biggest difference? General manager Ron Hextall floated the theory before last night's win that the team has upped its output as a response to Mason's absence.
Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux instead noted the Flyers' improved mental response to adversity.
They didn't flinch when it looked like the Wild's Zach Parise tied the game early in the third period, a goal that was disallowed because it entered the side of the net.
They also didn't appear frustrated with Minnesota's five power plays compared to their one.
Three weeks ago, the Flyers might have buckled in either situation.
"I think we're doing a better job of keeping our composure and how we play," Giroux said. "It's going to happen during the game when we're not going to be playing very well, but we've been able to stay focused."
Early in December, the Flyers slid through the standings with a 1-8-1 skid. They've collected 15 of 20 points (6-1-3) in the 10 games since - and Berube believes it has little to do with Mason, Ray Emery or Rob Zepp.
"They're playing like a team," Berube said. "We've got four lines rolling right now. Six [defensemen] are playing well, all of them. That's it. I know Mason's out and he'll be back soon. But to me, we've been trending in the right direction for 3 weeks now."
There is finally growing optimism that the trend is one not even 3 days away from the rink could break.
One thing to keep an eye on: Defenseman Andrew MacDonald took another shot off his right knee, the same one that kept him out of the lineup from Oct. 22 to Nov. 20 . . . Jake Voracek posted eight points in the last three games. He has a four-point edge on Dallas' Tyler Seguin in the league's scoring race . . . Claude Giroux (41 points) is one point back of Seguin . . . Twelve of the Flyers' 18 skaters recorded a point last night . . . Defenseman Michael Del Zotto was a healthy scratch for the ninth time in the last 11 games.