THEIR SIXTH loss in seven games served as yet another example of what Ron Hextall views as the Flyers' most prominent issue. Wednesday's 5-2 loss at Detroit featured stretches of good play, but a lack of consistency throughout all 60 minutes- on an individual level and on a team basis - is what concerns the first-year general manager.
"We've got to respond better to adversity," Hextall said after the yesterday morning's practice at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees. "When things don't go our way, we need to continue to push."
Wednesday's game pushed the Flyers past the quarter-mark of the season, 21 games, with an 8-10-3 record entering today's Black Friday matinee against the Rangers (9-8-4) at the Wells Fargo Center. The three-game winning streak of only 3 weeks ago is a distant memory.
Road woes play a major part in why the Flyers are in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division. They've won only twice in 10 such contests and have lost six consecutive games held away from the Wells Fargo Center since the Oct. 22 triumph at Pittsburgh. They have yet to score first in a road game.
The most recent loss sparked a postgame, players-only meeting in the visiting locker room at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. Hextall views the gathering as a positive. He'd be worried if such meetings weren't occurring, the way things have gone recently.
"I think it obviously shows the players care, and, sometimes when you have a meeting like that, guys air out what they're thinking," Hextall said. "To be honest, I don't even know what was said. But those are a good thing. If you're not having those when things aren't going great, you need to be really concerned."
Though sixth in the division, the Flyers are only three points from the third-place spots occupied by the Capitals and Rangers. Their 66 goals against are second most in the division, better than only the last-place Blue Jackets, the lone club they've defeated in the last 20 days.
With 32 points apiece, the first-place Penguins and Islanders are 10 points ahead of third.
"It's too early to get too tied up in the standings, but it's not too early to say, 'Where are we at as a group?' and we're under .500," Hextall said. "That's not going to cut it. We need to be better.
"We're a better team than our record shows, and I think the biggest issue we've had is consistency. You're never going to be totally consistent. We all get that part. But our consistency, our highs and lows, have been just too extreme, and, within a game, within a period, there's just been too many down parts, whether it's 10 minutes, 8 minutes, 6 minutes. The way the game is now, as close as it is, you can't afford it. You really can't."
Asked about the possibility of making a trade, Hextall said he's "not going to make a trade for the sake of making a trade; I'm going to make a trade that helps our team now and in the future."
The GM said he would like to see more of a sense of urgency from his players. Today's game, the first of a crucial home-and-home series with last season's runners-up, would be a good place to start. Coming away from this weekend with points is a must.
Like the Flyers, the Rangers are coming off a Wednesday loss, a 4-3 result at Tampa Bay. New York beat the Flyers in their first meeting, 2-0, on Nov. 19 at Madison Square Garden.
"They're huge," Hextall said of these next two games. "I think when I talk about responding to adversity, well, we've got a little bit right now. We need to man up and get going here. Obviously the Rangers are a big rival and obviously we're fighting with them right now. It's a big weekend for us."
The Flyers placed forward Jason Akeson on waivers, according to multiple media reports. Akeson has been a healthy scratch the last five games . . . Coach Craig Berube plans to stick to the same lines he used against the Red Wings, Scott Laughton centering Michael Raffl and Wayne Simmonds; Sean Couturier centering R.J. Umberger and Matt Read; and Vinny Lecavalier dropping to the fourth line to play with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Zac Rinaldo.