IN DECEMBER, there is no rest for the road-weary Flyers.
They swept a three-game trip that wrapped up on Wednesday in Buffalo, one that also included stops in Anaheim and Phoenix. They will play just two of their next nine games at the Wells Fargo Center before the Winter Classic.
And if anyone can appreciate the extra rest that came earlier in the week, with 3 days off between Saturday's win against Coyotes and Wednesday, it is Kimmo Timonen.
Timonen, 36, has played in 212 straight games. But that's not to say he hasn't dealt with his fair share of bumps and bruises. He has been nagged by a wonky lower back practically since he arrived in Philadelphia.
"My injuries aren't really going away that fast," Timonen told a Finnish news outlet this week.
Of the 26 skaters who have donned the Flyers uniform this season, Timonen is one of just eight to have appeared in all 27 games. He rarely misses a practice. On the blue line, he has been as steady as ever. And he has been a calming influence for the rookie-laden Flyers lineup with Chris Pronger and Andreas Lilja out with injuries.
"For me, what's most impressive about him is his durability," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I have told him he is like the mail. He shows up every day. It's in your box. You don't think about how it gets there."
Timonen is tied for third among all NHL defensemen with 18 assists. This year, he is asking for just one thing for the holidays.
"I have one wish for Santa," Timonen said in the Finnish paper. "Bring me at least one goal."
If you've looked at the Flyers' stat sheet recently, you'll notice that rookie Sean Couturier is buried on the scoring list. After collecting four points in his first six games - and eight points in his first 14 games - Couturier has gone on a 13-game point drought.
In his most recent stretch, Couturier has seen his minutes waver as often as his role in the Flyers' oft-injured lineup changes. Some nights, Couturier will play 16 or 17 minutes, and he'll be limited to 8 or 9 in others.
Laviolette hasn't lost faith in his blossoming lottery pick. In fact, it's just the opposite.
Only Max Talbot (4:17) plays more minutes per game on the penalty kill than Couturier, who is at 3:13.
"I think he's been terrific in everything we've asked him to do," Laviolette said. "Our message to him has been consistent, which is he's doing a tremendous job. In a lot of crucial situations, he's been terrific in every aspect of the game."
Despite an outcry from Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, the NHL decided not to suspend defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon for his hit on Nathan Gerbe on Wednesday night.
"Nor should [they]," Laviolette said. "He didn't follow through. There was no intent. I didn't see it, anyway."
Bourdon boarded Gerbe from behind, causing him to leave the game with an "upper-body" injury.
Vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan did, however, hold a hearing with Buffalo's Ville Leino for his errant elbow to the head of Matt Read. Leino, the former Flyer, received a one-game suspension, which he will serve tonight vs. Florida.
The Rangers confirmed that one of their all-time greats, Mark Messier, will be participating in the New Year's Eve alumni game against the Flyers at Citizens Bank Park.
Messier, who led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994, is second on the NHL's all-time points list with 1,887. The six-time Cup winner retired in 2004 at age 43.
The only person Messier trails on the points list, by "just" 970 points, is former partner-in-crime Wayne Gretzky. The "Great One" has been invited to the festivities but said he might choose to spend the holidays with his family instead.
In another Winter Classic development, it was announced that Penn State's top-ranked club team will play Division III Neumann University on Jan. 4 (8 p.m.) at Citizens Bank Park.
The old adage in hockey is that your goaltender is always your best penalty killer. Not for the Flyers this season.
Ilya Bryzgalov, who started back-to-back games last night for the second time in 5 days, ranks 55th of 68 goaltenders in the NHL with a paltry .837 save percentage. Prior to last night's victory over Pittsburgh, he had allowed 16 power-play goals on 82 shots, including two against the Sabres on Wednesday night. His partner, Sergei Bobrovsky, ranks 30th with a .884 save percentage.