DETROIT - The Flyers need to get their road act together if they want this season to have much meaning.
Maybe the expected return of Michael Raffl later this week will help. The left winger had six goals in 12 games before he injured his right foot on Nov. 4.
After a 1-0 shootout loss to the upstart New York Islanders on Monday in Uniondale, N.Y., the Flyers slipped to 2-6-1 on the road, where they have been shut out three times. They have not scored the first goal in any of their nine road games.
At home, the Flyers are 6-3-2 and averaging 3.5 goals per game. On the road, they are averaging just 2.1 goals per game.
The latest defeat started a stretch in which the Flyers (8-9-3) will play seven of eight games on the road. They play in Detroit on Wednesday before hosting the New York Rangers on Friday. After that, they have five consecutive road games, facing the Rangers, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Columbus.
Even though it's early, the Flyers' season is at a crucial juncture.
After the Flyers wasted a sensational 46-save performance by Steve Mason against the Islanders, coach Craig Berube said some of his players did not compete hard enough or show "enough urgency throughout the game."
The Flyers were outshot by the Islanders, 46-21.
"We're trying to find the perfect play," said captain Claude Giroux, who had a team-high four shots and won 58 percent of his faceoffs. "When you get pucks on net, that's when you get rebounds and greasy goals."
The Flyers are getting great production from the first line - Giroux centering Brayden Schenn and Jake Voracek - and little from anyone else.
"We need to get secondary scoring," Berube said.
That is especially true on the road, where they have managed a total of four goals in their last four games.
Raffl skated with the team at practice Tuesday and is getting closer to returning. There is a chance he will return this weekend, general manager Ron Hextall said.
"It's never easy to be out and watch your teammates play," said Raffl, who has missed the last eight games. "It's kind of boring. Those three weeks feel like a year to me. . . . I'm pretty happy to be around the guys in the locker room again."
When Raffl returns, he probably will go back on the top line, with Schenn likely going to the second unit alongside Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds, and Matt Read (one goal in the last 13 games) dropping to the third line. On paper, that would give the Flyers more scoring balance.
If Read went to the third line, there is a chance struggling R.J. Umberger would slip to the fourth. Umberger (one goal in 20 games, minus-7) has no points in his last 13 games, the longest stretch of his career.
Detroit (11-5-5) is 7-2-2 at home. . . . The Flyers scored a 4-2 victory (with an empty-netter) over the visiting Red Wings on Oct. 25 as Brayden Schenn scored the game-winner on the power play. Detroit's penalty kill had been 25 for 25 before surrendering that goal. . . . Mason has a .942 save percentage and a 1.25 goals-against average in the last three games, but only one win in that span.
Flyers Struggling Away from Home
Here are the NHL's worst road teams so far this season, based on points per game played away from home:
Team Rec PPG
Hurricanes 2-8-1 0.50
Flyers 2-6-1 0.55
Sabres 3-7-0 0.60
Kings 1-4-3 0.63
Oilers 2-5-1 0.63