NEW YORK - Granted, the Flyers played their "B" team in a game that had no significance Monday night.

Still, these dismal preseason starts - one year after the big boss, Ed Snider, said the Flyers had the worst camp in their history - have to be giving management agita.

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The Flyers fell into a 3-0 first-period hole Monday, were outshot by a 13-1 margin at one point, and lost to last spring's playoff rivals, the New York Rangers, 6-3, at Madison Square Garden.

After their awful start, the Flyers played much better over the last two periods. They got to within 5-3 when impressive rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere scored on a point drive with 8 minutes, 30 seconds left.

"We have to check better as a team; that's the bottom line," coach Craig Berube said. "We have to play better defense."

The Flyers (2-3-1) were outshot, 37-25, and have been outshot, 78-41, in the last two games.

Just like in the playoffs, the Rangers (2-1) skated around the Flyers with their speed, creating numerous scoring chances.

One night earlier, the Flyers were outshot, 41-16, in a 3-1 loss in New Jersey, Berube called it "unacceptable" and chided his team for its lack of hard work.

The Flyers have two more preseason games - Tuesday against the visiting Rangers and Thursday in Washington - to get their act together. Berube plans to use more regulars in those games.

Before the game, Berube acknowledged that there were two positions - center and right wing, both on the fourth line - that were still open.

That means the defense figures to look like this when the season starts Oct. 8 in Boston: Andrew MacDonald and Braydon Coburn; Mark Streit and Nick Grossmann; and Luke Schenn and Michael Del Zotto. Nick Schultz is penciled in as the seventh defenseman.

Coburn and MacDonald were the only regular defensemen who dressed Monday, while the Rangers used a more seasoned lineup.

As for the position battles, journeyman Blair Jones played another hard-nosed game and may have slipped past Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Scott Laughton for the fourth center spot. Jason Akeson helped his bid to become the fourth-line right winger by beating Henrik Lundqvist from the right circle after taking a nice feed from Zac Rinaldo.

Jones was struck by rookie winger Taylor Leier's shot in the final period; he got six stitches near his lip and the injury is not serious. Leier scored his second goal in as many nights and continues to impress.

Goalie Steve Mason did not get much defensive support and was beaten on several high shots, including two by Ryan Haggerty.

Gostisbehere had a goal and an assist after being on the ice for two first-period goals.

"He was aggressive and did some real good things with the puck," Berube said.

Bonding time

The Flyers will fly to Cape Cod on Friday and have practices at the Charles Moore Arena in Orleans, Mass., on Sunday and Monday, preparing for next Wednesday's opener in Boston. Berube said there will be some team-bonding activities during their stay in Cape Cod.

"I think it's good to get the team together," he said. "Really, the team's not together through training camp. They're all over the place."

That's because there have been some split-squad games and because some players, including Leier, have gone to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and then returned to camp.


Berube said captain Claude Giroux probably will play Tuesday night against the visiting Rangers if he feels 100 percent after the morning skate. Giroux, who suffered a lower-body injury on the first day of camp, has yet to play in any preseason games. . . . Flyers broadcaster Steve Coates on Gostisbehere's play Monday: "Have you ever seen a guy play five positions at one time?"