The Flyers have frequently played to the level of their competition this season.
Example: They are 5-1-1 against league heavyweights Pittsburgh, Washington, and Detroit, but they have just two wins in six games against scuffling teams such as Columbus, Calgary, New Jersey, and Florida.
In other words, they should not be looking past the woeful New Jersey Devils, their opponent in a home-and-home series that starts in Newark on Thursday night.
"I think we've been guilty of doing that before," center Blair Betts said after Wednesday's practice in Voorhees. "Just from the last few games Jersey has played, they're playing pretty well. They're a dangerous team and have great players that can hurt you if you're not careful. These are two games we definitely need to win, for sure."
In addition to Thursday, the teams will play at the Wells Fargo Center in a Saturday matinee.
"We've got to get to the mind frame of bringing it every practice and every game . . . no matter who we're playing," defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. "I don't think we'll have any problem getting up for these games at all."
New Jersey (10-27-2), which recently brought Jacques Lemaire back as its coach, is last in the NHL with 22 points, but it does own a 2-1, shoot-out win over the visiting Flyers on Nov. 27.
"For a team like Jersey, it's win or die for them now," said Flyers winger Dan Carcillo, who is expected to be on the fourth line with Betts and Jody Shelley. "So they're going to come out hard, and we just need to match their intensity. We've talked about these next two months and not getting into a lull and keeping the pedal down."
The Devils have scored the fewest goals in the NHL (69), and their goaltending is in such disarray that the legendary Martin Brodeur has been sharing the duties.
Johan Hedberg (5-8-1, 2.87 goals-against average) will start for the Devils Thursday and is expected to be opposed by Brian Boucher (8-4-2, 2.33). Brodeur, the all-time NHL leader in wins (607) and shutouts (113), is 5-18-1 with a 3.15 goals-against average and an unfathomable .882 save percentage.
The Devils, 2-13 since Nov. 27 and 1-5 since Lemaire replaced John MacLean behind the bench, have the league's worst offense, averaging 1.72 goals per game. By comparison, the Flyers are third in the NHL, at 3.33 goals per game.
"Since I've been in the league, I've never seen them anywhere close to the bottom half of the league," center Danny Briere said. "They're always in the top half, even in their bad years. We haven't seen them for a while, so it's tough to say exactly what's going wrong with them. But it's definitely really weird to see them down there and losing game after game after game."
The Devils miss injured winger Zach Parise, and Ilya Kovalchuk has been a bust. Kovalchuk leads the Devils with a modest 10 goals and is minus-29.
"When you have things rolling your way, you have to take advantage and appreciate it as much as possible because it can go south in a hurry, as we see with the Devils," said Briere, whose team is among the NHL's elite.
If the Flyers register back-to-back wins against New Jersey, coach Peter Laviolette will be guaranteed to be one of the co-coaches in the All-Star Game. The East and West coaches whose teams have the best winning percentage after Saturday's games will share the duties and oppose a team coached by Chicago's Joel Quenneville.
"I certainly want to win these two games, but not for that reason," said Laviolette, who has never coached in an NHL All-Star Game.