It could not have been an easy decision.

But when Peter Laviolette sat Nik Zherdev as a healthy scratch for two games last weekend - in favor of a forward with little experience in Andreas Nodl and scrapper Dan Carcillo - it was a calculated one.

Laviolette knew that Zherdev could either be ignited by the benching and turn on the urgency in his game or he could simply turn his back.

Zherdev was reinserted into the lineup on Monday - with Nodl hurt and Danny Briere serving his three-game suspension - and the experiment seems to have paid off.

Zherdev said sitting out has motivated him to play better.

"I watched a couple games," Zherdev said. "It was good. Coach told me what I needed to do on the ice. He told me that I need to go to the net and shoot the puck. He told me what I was not doing on the ice. He wants me to focus on shooting and play a straight [north-south] game."

Zherdev picked up his third goal of the season last night - against his former team, the Rangers - after wristing a puck toward Henrik Lundqvist from the corner in the third period.

He has now strung together two solid efforts in a row. On Monday night, in the Flyers' 3-2 win over Carolina, Zherdev didn't score but played more minutes (15:07) than any other game this season. He even earned 2:35 of power-play time, something he didn't do in his first nine games.

"I've liked his game, more [last night] than even last game," Laviolette said. "That's a couple good games in a row for him. His speed, his intensity on the puck. He's played stronger. His strides were better. He was involved more in the play. He was a little bit more physical.

"He is more urgent with his game - and that kind of encompasses everything."

Last night, Zherdev skated with Claude Giroux and Darroll Powe. The trio combined for five shots and three points.

"I like playing with Giroux," Zherdev said. "He is a good player. I feel better now. I am in a better place now than I was."

Muzzies in Movember

If you see some crazy looks from your favorite Flyers over the next few weeks, don't worry. It's for charity.

Some of the Flyers joined a worldwide charity effort yesterday, growing mustaches for the month of November to raise money and support for men's health and prostate cancer. "Movember" started in Australia in 2003 and raised $42 million last year.

Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Scott Hartnell joined in after Jody Shelley and Dan Carcillo brought up the idea.

"Back in the 1970s, in a lot of the pictures I saw, the Broad Street Bullies had mustaches," Carcillo said. "We might as well do it. I thought maybe it would bring us some luck and help a good cause. And it's a good look."

You can read more about the cause at www.movember.com.

Nodl still sore

Andreas Nodl skated yesterday with his teammates for the first time since suffering a right shoulder injury in Saturday's win over the Islanders, but was held out of last night's game because he was still sore.

Nodl, who has two goals in five games, said he had no trouble shooting or skating, but could not effectively test his shoulder with contact drills in a morning skate alone.

"It felt a lot better," Nodl said. "It's just been sore the last few days, but feels way better now. I need to hit a little bit and grind in the corners and then we'll see how it feels."

Quotable

"Wayne Gretzky and I didn't have a lot of respect for each other early on. It was something we had to work at. I remember a game back in 1981 at Northlands Coliseum [in Edmonton] against the Flyers, where Wayne was diving all game. Finally, with about a minute left, Wayne dove and there wasn't anyone within 15 feet of him. Bob Clarke came over to him and said, 'Gretzky, stop whining you [expletive] baby.' I said to Wayne, 'What are you doing? There wasn't anyone around you.' He said, 'Even if there was, you wouldn't call it. You haven't called a damn thing all night!' I said, 'Well, here's the first one. You've got 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.' "

- Former NHL official Kerry Fraser, talking about one of the many stories in his new book, "The Final Call: Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes," as a guest on Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live" yesterday.

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.