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Bully for Flyers? Not this season

Head coach Craig Berube says the days of having an enforcer on the team are over.

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Claude Giroux was crushed by Dustin Byfuglien so many times on Sunday night in Winnipeg that it felt like "at least six or seven" hits.

Michael Raffl needed a few seconds to get up after being drilled in that game, too, appearing a bit dazed and confused.

In actuality, Byfuglien - the Jets' 260-pound, 6-5 monster - was credited with a total of only five hits in the game. It just felt like so many more.

The Flyers were pushed around, yes, but they pushed back. Byfuglien was so frustrated after being pickpocketed by Giroux for the overtime game-winner that he went after Craig Berube as the Flyers coach was walking off the ice.

"I swear I didn't say anything," Berube said, smiling. "Nothing. Honestly."

If ever there was a time for the Flyers to reverse course and call up an enforcer, this would have been the time. The Flyers made a calculated decision in October to break training camp without a full-time fighter for the first time since 1971.

Instead, Berube's message yesterday was that help would not be on the way. Jay Rosehill and Zack Stortini, collecting combined paychecks of $800,000 this season, will stay parked in Lehigh Valley.

"I've changed," Berube said. "Those days are over, boys.

"I want our team to understand that you're going to need to weather the storm sometimes in games. Bigger teams are going to come after you. We just need to establish that we're going to stand up there and play hard."

For most of the first 30 games of the season, the Flyers did not stand up to opponents. Anyone who characterized them as a "soft" team would not have been wrong. Berube's goal has been to change that mindset - a stance somewhat still surprising since Berube made his 1,054-game career out of protecting his teammates.

The NHL game is changing, and the Flyers want to be on the right side of the movement.

"It's not about getting an enforcer," Berube said. "It's about hitting him back, like Giroux did on that goal. That's all you've got to do. I'm not asking anyone to go out and fight. It's about playing the game and getting involved and sticking together as a team.

"That's all I want out of our team. Everybody can take the body, everybody can be intense. Stand up for each other."

Berube acknowledged he would not be happy if that meant one of his top players were knocked out as a result of a questionable hit from a player with a reputation.

He recognizes that just having an enforcer on the bench will not deter that type of activity. It will happen regardless. Sometimes, the enforcer is even the one inflicting damage - such as repeat offender John Scott, who knocked out Anaheim's Tim Jackman on Monday night with a vicious butt-end.

Last night, the Flyers had a decided advantage against the Wild before the puck even dropped at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota coach Mike Yeo opted for tough guy Stu Bickel, on defense of all positions, because he felt the Wild had been "pushed around at home" without him. He'd played only four games all season.

Berube is also finding out just how valuable his fourth line can be when not bogged down by a fighter with a limited skill set. Chris VandeVelde, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Vinny Lecavalier composed arguably his best line in Winnipeg.

It was the first time that line had the opportunity to play together this season, since Zac Rinaldo sat out with an "upper-body" injury. Rinaldo skated yesterday and seemed healthy enough to play, but Berube had no need to rush him back.

"VandeVelde played last game like he did in training camp," Berube said. "Just his speed and physicality, his skating. These guys, Giroux and Jake, they're going to get checked. They're great players. The thing that impressed me the most is they played through it. We needed to respond and be physical back. We hung in there."