DETROIT - Short-term, the Flyers can withstand the loss of injured defenseman Chris Pronger and be a defensively responsible team.

At least that was the message coming from the Flyers' veteran blueliners after their latest defensive meltdown, Friday's 5-2 loss in Anaheim.

The Flyers gave rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky little support and handed the Ducks an abundance of wide-open scoring chances.

In the last five games, all without Pronger, the Flyers have allowed 21 goals, an average of 4.2 per contest.

Is it an aberration?

Sean O'Donnell thinks so. The 39-year-old defenseman pointed out that the Flyers played the first two games of the season without Pronger, who was then rehabbing from off-season knee surgery.

In those games - a 3-2 win in Pittsburgh and a 2-1 overtime defeat in St. Louis - the Flyers surrendered a total of just three regulation goals.

"Chris is a great player, but we showed we can do the job without him," O'Donnell said. "We just need to tighten up."

Pronger is expected to be sidelined until late January because of his latest injury, a broken right foot.

Compounding matters is that defenseman Kimmo Timonen is playing through a leg injury.

"We're not as sharp as we were, and we're making mistakes and it's in our net," O'Donnell said. "Teams get up for the Philadelphia Flyers. We're getting teams' best effort, and if we don't bring our 'A' game, we're not going to win."

O'Donnell said the Flyers (23-10-5) needed to get back to basics.

"We have to keep working hard, not give up power-play chances, and gut out some 2-1 wins," he said.

The ominous news is this: On Sunday at 5 p.m., the Flyers play at high-scoring Detroit, where they are 0-13-2 since their last win at the Joe Louis Arena, in 1988.

The Red Wings (24-9-5), leaders in the Western Conference, will be hungry. They are coming off Friday's stunning 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting Islanders.

Breakaways. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson might make his NHL debut Sunday and replace Oskars Bartulis. . . . The Flyers went 8-4-1 in December. . . . Winger Nik Zherdev has been benched for stretches in each of the last two games because of his inconsistent play. . . . Jody Shelley's two-game suspension has ended, and he is eligible to play Sunday. . . . Injured winger Ian Laperriere, whose defense the Flyers could use, will accept the team-of-the- year award for the Flyers at the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association's banquet Jan. 31 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill. Several Philadelphia athletes will be honored, including the Phillies' Roy Halladay (pro athlete of the year) and Shane Victorino (humanitarian of the year) and former Eagle Bill Bergey (living legend award). Tickets are available at . . . The Flyers are 3-4-3 against Western Conference teams. . . . Entering Saturday, Detroit was tied with Colorado for the NHL's most goals (131).