Flyers get dirty in front of net

Dirty. Gritty. We're talking about the difference in Sean Couturier and the Flyers' offense, which supplied a collective sigh of relief with a much-needed win over Carolina. (Tom Mihalek/AP)

GREASY. Dirty. Gritty.

No, we're not talking about a mechanic's fingernails.

We're talking about the difference in the Flyers' offense on Saturday night, which supplied a collective sigh of relief with a much-needed win over Carolina.

Take a look back at the Flyers' five goals. All involved a significant net presence, including power-play blasts from defenseman Kurtis Foster and point man Claude Giroux that came from the top of the circles.

Mike Knuble, who later collected his first goal of the season on a wraparound, was in Dan Ellis' grill for Foster's top-shelf slap shot. Rookie Tye McGinn screened replacement Cam Ward as Giroux positioned the puck far-post.

Braydon Coburn scored from the high slot, crashing the net for a rebound. And Danny Briere scored with his skates nearly in the blue crease - and he wasn't the only Flyer that close to the net.

"That's what the coaches have talked about," Briere said after his goal. "We need some more presence in front of the net, trying to find some loose pucks and getting to gritty areas."

The Flyers needed just 24 shots to score five goals. It's the quality and not quantity that counts. Carolina posted 42 shots on net, but many of them came from the perimeter and the Flyers blocked an additional 32 from even getting there.

Ilya Bryzgalov, who has the third-best save percentage of goaltenders who have seen more than 200 shots this season, has kept the Flyers in every game. The issue has been scoring. The Flyers have averaged 4.7 goals in their three wins; they averaged just 1.2 in their six losses.

With Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds out, maybe McGinn - who was a healthy scratch earlier last week - can be that "big body presence" that Giroux so desperately needs to get that first line scoring. Without a ton of depth, the Flyers will only go as far as their top line takes them.

Briere can feed Giroux the puck. McGinn can cause trouble. He won't have clean fingernails, but the Flyers will have more wins with that mindset.


Reinforcement coming?

Do not be surprised if the Flyers recall defenseman Erik Gustafsson from Adirondack some time soon. Gustafsson, 24, almost surely would have beaten out either Bruno Gervais or Kurtis Foster for a roster spot if he was healthy when training camp opened on Jan. 13.

He would provide some much-needed up-ice mobility for the Flyers. Braydon Coburn's agility stood out on Saturday night, as he collected his first goal of the season by joining the rush.

Foster, who has a blast from the point, also scored his first goal of the season - but the coaches have chosen Gervais over him in the lineup this year based on his skating. Nick Grossmann and Luke Schenn both provide size, but poor foot speed. Kimmo Timonen is slowing down by the day.

Gustafsson, who was chosen for the AHL All-Star Game but did not attend because of a high-ankle sprain suffered on Dec. 14, finally returned on Jan. 25. He has four games under his belt and could be back in the NHL soon, where he played 30 games last year with the Flyers.


Price for Weiss?

The Flyers had director of player development Don Luce at Sunday afternoon's Panthers-Sabres contest in Buffalo.

Why is that interesting? Florida, which visits Thursday, is off to a rough start and is already considering making drastic changes. Forward Stephen Weiss, who has spent his entire career with the Panthers, is an interesting piece. He was the subject of Hockey Night in Canada's "Hot Stove" on Saturday night.

Weiss, 29, is a consistent 60-point scorer. He is affordable: With a pro-rated $3.1 million cap hit, the Flyers wouldn't need to move any pieces to fit him under the limit. He's also due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, making him an attractive rental like Kris Versteeg (now with Florida) became for the Flyers.

The only catch is that Weiss has already said that he would like to remain in Florida for the duration of his career. He was the fourth overall pick there in 2001, finally making his first playoff appearance with the Panthers last year (five points in seven games) after 637 career games.

Weiss added an assist Sunday in his first game back from a minor injury.

Luce, of course, lives in the Buffalo area and watches many games there. But he did heavily scout Toronto's Luke Schenn last winter before Paul Holmgren pulled the trigger in June. Florida GM Dale Tallon and Holmgren have completed five minor deals together since 2005.


Slap shots

The Flyers did not practice Sunday . . . Their 3-for-3 power play effort on Saturday pushed them from 24th to 16th in the NHL, operating at 18.6 percent. They face the league's No. 2 power play, Tampa Bay, on Tuesday (36.1 percent). The Lightning torched the Flyers for two power-play goals on Jan. 27 at Tampa Bay Times Forum.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers