NINE DAYS AGO, after the Flyers' loss in Carolina, Kimmo Timonen was visibly distraught standing in the visitors' locker room at PNC Arena. His cries were falling on deaf ears.
For more than a year, Timonen had been beating the drum that the Flyers' team skating needed to be better.
"We've got to get skating," Timonen said on Oct. 6. "The last two games, it looked like we were standing still. We haven't skated as good as we can."
Peter Laviolette was fired the next day.
Fast forward a week to yesterday's practice and it is clear that someone was listening to Timonen - or at least new coach Craig Berube shares the same opinion.
Berube has only run three full practices as the Flyers' new boss, but the change has been markedly different. The tempo is faster. There is very little idle time. Drills involve full-ice skating. And almost every practice so far wraps up with sprints, something usually reserved only for large gaps in the schedule under Laviolette.
"They have been some of the hardest practices in years," Scott Hartnell said Friday.
"You actually break a sweat," Jay Rosehill said last Thursday.
The skating has been better, but the results have not shown that yet. The Flyers could use them this week - with home games against the Canucks and Penguins - as a 3-5-0 mark with a full 7 days between games is a lot different than 1-7-0.
According to Berube, the Flyers didn't come into training camp in optimal skating shape. And Laviolette's training camp probably wasn't tough enough to build it up.
"He thinks we're not in really good skating shape and I totally agree with that," Timonen said. "When I say good shape, I mean good skating shape. Skating is a different thing than riding a bike. We've been practicing pretty hard and skating at the end of practices. I don't think he would have been skating us if he thought we were in good shape. It can always be better."
Previously, the Flyers had to be considered one of the NHL's slowest teams, and they are also one of the oldest with an average age of 28.1 years.
"I am trying to get us faster," Berube said. "You can always work at getting quicker."
So far, Timonen likes what he has seen under Berube. Timonen thought "we actually controlled that game" Saturday in Detroit.
"We've been skating," Timonen said yesterday. "I've been saying this for a couple years. When we do skate, we're a really hard team to play against. When we don't skate, it seems other teams have an easy way to get out of the zone. It's a process, but it's been a little better."
The lack of skating has led to unnecessary penalties. The Flyers lead the NHL in minor penalties with 39 through six games. They also led the league in minor infractions (hooking, interference, tripping, etc.) each of the last two seasons, with 213 during the lockout-shortened season last year and a league-high 382 in 2012-13.
Penalties are costing the Flyers. Their penalty kill is middling (18th in NHL, 78.8 percent) after a 3-for-7 performance against the Red Wings.
"We took seven penalties," Timonen said. "Against any power play, that's going to leave a mark. There's some penalties you have to take, some penalties that are accidents and some stupid penalties. Two to three penalties per game has to be our goal. I'm sure there's a couple games you can go without penalties but not over 82 games."
Timonen has been one of the Flyers' biggest culprits in minor penalties this season. He leads the Flyers with five minors; his partner for the first five games, Braydon Coburn, is second with four. Two of Timonen's penalties have resulted in goals-against - out of the Flyers' seven total allowed on 33 penalty kills.
Perhaps, Timonen's 38-year-old legs are showing their age - and Timonen himself, along with the rest of the Flyers' defense, could use the extra skating.
"I've got a lot of penalties," Timonen admitted. "There's some bad ones and there's some bad calls, but I've got to be better there."
After Laviolette's dismissal, Timonen didn't address the media until yesterday. It has taken a while to sink in, a shock that might still be resonating in the locker room, if not the Flyers' legs.
"It's a sad thing, I liked Lavy," Timonen said. "They're good people and they're good coaches. It's a business. We didn't win games. Obviously, something happens."
The Western Conference is an astounding 27-6-3 against the Eastern Conference this season. Tonight's game against the Canucks (3-3-0) is the Flyers' second (0-1-0) of 28 games vs. the West this season. Vancouver will be without defenseman Alex Edler, who is serving the second game of his three-game suspension . . . GM Paul Holmgren, assistant GM Ron Hextall and player development coach Kjell Samuelsson watched yesterday's Phantoms loss in Albany. Jason Akeson and Petr Straka each have four points in four games for the Phantoms (1-2-0-1) . . . Berube said he "didn't see enough" from $4 million defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who was a healthy scratch Saturday in Detroit. Erik Gustafsson scored a goal and added noticeable mobility and speed to the Flyers' lineup in his first game of the season.