COLUMBUS - Since arriving last December, Peter Laviolette has clamored for accountability, effort, discipline - and, most of all, consistency.
Darroll Powe may just be his model hockey player.
Powe, one of the Flyers' most noticeable players through the first seven games, was rewarded with a game on the first line on Saturday night. Laviolette bumped Powe - usually reserved for the checking line - up to play with Mike Richards and Claude Giroux.
The line clicked. Richards posted his first goal of the season and picked up two assists, pacing the Flyers to a 5-2 victory over Toronto, one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. But Powe was the man behind the scenes.
Powe, 25, is a rarity in today's NHL. And it's not his Ivy League degree in sociology from Princeton that sets him apart.
Powe is undersized (at 5-11) for a grind-line winger. He was undrafted out of college. But he caught the eye of former Flyers coach John Stevens, who helped mold him into the role he fills today.
Sometimes when a coach like Stevens is fired, players like Powe lose their jobs, too.
Instead, Laviolette has found him to be an integral cog among the Flyers' working parts. Powe has carved out a nice living for himself with the Flyers.
"He's one of those players that can play all three positions on all four lines," Laviolette said. "He can play on any line and bring his strengths to that line. He's able to get in on the forecheck and separate pucks from people. He can be a presence in front of the net.
"He's a powerful guy. He's one of those energy guys that seems to play hard every night. But for me, since I've been here, he's been a pretty consistent player."
For the Flyers to take a different path to the postseason - read: not relying on Brian Boucher to stuff the Rangers' Olli Jokinen on the last attempt of a shootout on the final day of the regular season - they will need to be more consistent.
General manager Paul Holmgren - who already had a stacked roster - found a way to keep Powe, an unrestricted free agent this summer, in the mix. Powe never forgets to pack his blue-collar style in his equipment bag.
"I try and follow the same routine every day," Powe said. "There are always days when you're not feeling good, but you need to just go through the same thing and make sure that you're ready at the drop of the puck. I try and give my best effort every night."
Powe, who played a season-high 14:29 on Saturday, has skated more this season because of his job on the penalty kill. Powe saw more ice time Saturday than James van Riemsdyk and Nikolay Zherdev - but he would see even more if he could chip in offensively, too.
"I'd like to contribute a little bit more that way," Powe said. "I've carved myself an identity as a penalty killer and as a role player, but there's some things that I can continue to work on on the offensive side of the puck, things that I want to improve on."
Perhaps because Saturday's game was a premiere "Hockey Night in Canada" matchup, Richards said he could feel a different intensity level in the locker room.
"We were ready for the game," Richards said. "Losing two or three in a row doesn't hurt, either. I think you could feel the energy before the game in our locker room, that everyone just had a sense that everyone was ready. I think we played with a sense of desperation."
For the second game in a row, the Flyers posted 40 or more shots on net. They also had 68 attempts (40 shots, 13 blocked and 15 missed) at Jean-Sebastian Giguere. They threw 89 (42 shots, 28 blocked and 19 missed) at Anaheim's Curtis McElhinney last Thursday.
"When we're getting 80-90 attempts at the net, we know we're playing our style of hockey," Powe said. "There are still things we need to clean up in our game, but overall, we're heading in the right direction."
Powe said he has noticed a different level of intensity for regular-season games than last year.
"There's definitely a little bit of a different feel," Powe said. "We've got a specific goal in mind - and that's to win the Stanley Cup. We're really motivated. Every game this year, we're approaching like a must-win. We snuck in on a shootout last year. We know the importance of every game. Just because it's October or November and not March or April, we still know the importance of every game."
We'll see if that consistency - evident in the two previous games, even if one of them was a loss - can stick when the Flyers begin a stretch of five games in 8 nights tonight against the Blue Jackets.
"Regardless, whether you've got time off, whether you have four games in 6 nights or whether you've got back-to-back games, it doesn't matter," Laviolette said. "You need to play a certain brand of hockey. That's the target."
James van Riemsdyk said he was fine after being boarded by Toronto's Colby Armstrong with 7 minutes to go on Saturday . . . Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger missed yesterday's practice with what coach Peter Laviolette called maintenance days for both players . . . Ville Leino , who picked up his first goal of the season Saturday night, seemed to be unaffected by a thigh bruise sustained when he collided with Pronger in Friday's practice.
5: Number of games for the Flyers in the next 8 nights.
8: Number of blocked shots for Kimmo Timonen on Saturday night, a season-high for the Flyers by a single player. The Flyers blocked more shots (18) on Saturday than Toronto (14) got through to the net.
The week ahead
Tonight, 7 o'clock
The Flyers and Blue Jackets (4-3-0), who are in their 10th season as an NHL franchise, met just once last year, with the Flyers grabbing a 5-3 win on Jan. 19. Former Flyer R.J. Umberger leads Columbus with four goals in seven games. The Blue Jackets - who opened this season with a two-game split in Stockholm, Sweden against San Jose - fired former Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock last season but he still remains with the club as a consultant.
Tomorrow, 7 o'clock
Pesky Derek Roy leads the sputtering Sabres (3-5-1) into town for a nationally televised contest on Versus. The Sabres have had no trouble scoring (2.67 goals per game) but have given up just as many in their own net. Buffalo is 3-1 on the road and 0-4-1 at HSBC Arena.
Friday, 7 o'clock
This marks the Flyers' third and final meeting with the Penguins (5-3-1) this month. Backstopped by Sergei Bobrovsky, the Flyers shut out the Pens for two periods before escaping with a 3-2 win on opening night at the Consol Energy Center. Sidney Crosby scored twice in a 5-1 Penguins' victory on Oct. 16. Crosby has six goals and five assists in nine games.
vs. N.Y. Islanders
Saturday, 7 o'clock
Despite missing Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo and leading scorer John Tavares for a good chunk of the season, the Islanders have scratched and clawed their way to a 4-2-2 start. They've played four overtime games, where they picked up two of their wins and two losses. Rangers transfer P.A. Parenteau leads New York with nine points in eight games while Tavares posted five goals in five games before missing time with a concussion.