Some Flyers went back to Canada for Christmas to be near their roots. Some, like coach Peter Laviolette, whose family has settled in Voorhees, stayed in the area.

But the players and coaches will be reunited Sunday when they travel to Vancouver, where they will start a five-game road swing Tuesday against the surging Canucks.

Christmas is the last day of the Flyers' holiday break. They will have had four days away from the ice when they practice Sunday afternoon in Vancouver (20-8-5), where the Flyers are 10-0-4 since 1989.

After facing the Northwest-leading Canucks on Tuesday, the Flyers play in Los Angeles on Thursday and in Anaheim on Friday, New Year's Eve. They play in Detroit on Jan. 2, return home for some practices, and then head up the New Jersey Turnpike and play the struggling Devils in Newark on Jan. 6.

On the first four legs of the trip, the Flyers will face teams with a combined 79-45-14 record.

"The West Coast trip is always a fun time, going over there, spending lots of time with the guys," center Danny Briere said. "We get to do it during the holidays, so I am definitely looking forward to it."

"It's a big stretch," said Laviolette, whose team will play nine of the next 10 games on the road. "It's a chance for us to get out. I think as hard as road trips can be sometimes, they can be really good for your team. You can really solidify your team as a group. You can do some things on the road that you don't get to do at home. There are always personal obligations at home with family, kids, and other things you attend to."

There is more bonding on the road, more time to focus on the games.

"You simplify it a little bit, and it's, more or less, just hockey," Laviolette said. "So, at times, road trips can be a good thing. You have to win the games, but it's a chance for your team to get out together."

The Flyers are 10-2-3 on the road, which is why they are among the NHL's elite.

When they play in Vancouver Tuesday, it will be the Flyers' first game in eight nights.

"There are always things that come up in the schedule.  Four games in six nights, off for seven days. They are things you can't control," Laviolette said. "Whether I like them or I don't like them - or whether they are good for the team or they are not good for the team - is almost irrelevant and not worth the time to think about it.

"There's no wiggle room on it. We can't call the league and schedule a game on the 26th. We may as well just deal with it."

The time off during the holidays has been good for the team, he said.

"We have some guys that are banged up a little bit," Laviolette said. "They get a break, they get away mentally and physically, and then get back into it."

The Flyers are second in the Atlantic Division and the overall NHL points race, one point behind Pittsburgh (which has played one more game) in both instances. They are 22-8-5 for 49 points - a vast improvement from a corresponding point last season, when they were fifth in the Atlantic and 12th in the East with a 15-18-2 record for 32 points.

Breakaways. The Flyers are on pace for 115 points, which would be the third-most in the franchise's history - and the most since they had 116 in the 1979-80 season. . . . The meeting with Los Angeles will have added intrigue. Kings coach Terry Murray and assistant John Stevens used to be Flyers head coaches, and L.A. general manager Dean Lombardi and assistant GM Ron Hextall also worked for the Flyers. The Kings also have former Flyers Michal Handzus and Justin Williams on their roster. . . . The Flyers have five players in the top 11 in the NHL's plus-minus ratings: Andrej Meszaros (No. 1 at plus-20), Briere (tied for No. 6 at plus-16), Sean O'Donnell (also at plus-16), Scott Hartnell (tied for No. 9 at plus-15), and Ville Leino (tied for No. 11 at plus-14). . . . Mike Richards leads the Flyers with 29 takeaways.