IN AN attempt to project this season's offensive output, the Flyers' brass needed to rely on a handful of players continuing to exceed expectations in order to increase last season's 264 goals.

Matt Read, Jake Voracek, Max Talbot and Wayne Simmonds all posted career highs in their first season with the Flyers.

Not all of them have pulled their weight this season, which partially explains the Flyers' 25th-ranked offense (2.33 goals per-game) after finishing third last season.

Talbot, coming off a year in which he posted career-highs in goals (19), assists (15) and points (34), is the Flyers' only regular forward without a goal this season. Five defensemen already have netted their first goals of the year ahead of him.

"I think offensively there's room for probably everyone to grow in here, and Max is certainly part of that," coach Peter Laviolette said. "The five-on-five numbers and the offense, the chances, those haven't come as easily this year. There's lots of guys that probably fall into that scenario."

Talbot was demoted to the fourth line at practice on Monday, skating with Ruslan Fedotenko and Zac Rinaldo. In Saturday's win, Talbot was with Voracek and Brayden Schenn.

Regardless of his role - or his choice in the matter - Talbot's 19 goals last season created an expectation to score. Talbot says that isn't the case.

"I don't think I'm here to score goals," Talbot said. "That's not my role as a player. It's something that last year, obviously it was good to score. But that's not my priority. My priority is to play solid every night, and the goals will come."

That doesn't mean Talbot isn't trying to score.

"I proved to myself I could score last year, which is nice," he said. "Personally, I know my role and I know what I need to do to be successful. I don't think it shows every night on the scoreboard."

Talbot's role is to provide infectious energy on the forecheck, to play solid defensively, to kill penalties and to frustrate opponents. Laviolette said Talbot is "still that type of player for us," but there were rumblings the Flyers' coaching staff was less than thrilled with Talbot's first three or four games this season.

As a whole, Talbot's minutes are down. He averaged 15:59 last season, is down to 14:21 this year. Even in his bread and butter area - the penalty kill - Talbot has seen his ice time shaved by Sean Couturier. Talbot averaged 3:29 per game on the kill last season, more than Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, but he's down to 3:08 this season.

Talbot has just seven shots on goal. Even Scott Laughton, sent back to junior hockey four games ago, has three more shots on net than Talbot. Then again, Talbot only had one goal through his first nine games last season. He collected 12 by the 48th game of the season.

"Everyone is frustrated, I think. It's not the start that we wanted. Personally, the same thing," Talbot said. "We need to stay the course. We knew it was going to be a roller coaster."

Simmonds out

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren ruled Wayne Simmonds "out" for Tuesday's game against Tampa Bay, leaving him questionable for Thursday vs. Florida. Simmonds suffered what is believed to be his first career concussion Friday night in Washington.

Holmgren said the Flyers didn't believe it to be "overly serious."

"My experience with these things is you just don't know," Holmgren said. "With the protocol, on our symptom scale, he was actually pretty decent today. The fact that he didn't take part [in practice] today pushes things back a day. Hopefully his symptom scale is better [Tuesday] and we'll take it from there."

Washington's John Erskine was suspended three games for the hit. Erskine reportedly was "not happy" with Brendan Shanahan's ruling. Erskine, who had never been suspended and only been fined once in his 11-year career, sent Simmonds a text message apologizing, telling him he hoped he felt better and could return to the lineup soon.

Slap shots

Paul Holmgren revealed for the first time that Phantoms defenseman Erik Gustafsson has been out for the past month with a bone fracture in his lower leg, as opposed to a high-ankle sprain that was originally reported. Gustafsson, who skated in 30 games with the Flyers last year, could be back with the Flyers soon. Holmgren said Gustafsson is "not up to full speed yet" but he will be monitored closely . . . Marc-Andre Bourdon, who played in 45 games with the Flyers last season, is back in Adirondack after visiting concussion expert Dr. Ted Carrick in Atlanta, the same doctor who treated Sidney Crosby.