As good as the Philadelphia Flyers have been recently, they know there is room for improvement.
Looking for more discipline and improved focus on the penalty kill, the Flyers host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.
Philadelphia (18-8-7) has gone 14-2-4 in its last 20 games to move into second in the Atlantic Division, three points behind the New York Rangers. While the Flyers have been stellar on the power play of late, converting 17 of 45 chances (37.8 percent) over their last 11 games, they've also struggled killing penalties, giving up 12 goals in 53 chances in that span.
Philadelphia, which conceded only 15 power-play goals in its first 22 games, yielded one such goal in five chances in its 3-2 shootout loss to New Jersey on Sunday. But it was the energy expended in successfully killing off three first-period penalties that left coach John Stevens concerned after his team salvaged a point by rallying from a 2-0 second-period deficit.
"Our penalty kill did a good job but it's a tough way to start a hockey game and you end up taxing people too much," Stevens said. "They (the officials) kind of lay out the groundwork for what's to be accepted, but it seems like they use us to do it at times. We have to figure out what the standard is earlier on, and be extremely disciplined and not put sticks anywhere but on the puck and move our feet."
The Flyers, who are third in the NHL with 19 penalty minutes per game, have been called for at least two minor penalties in each of their last 10 games and have been whistled for three minors in the opening 20 minutes of the last three.
"Killing penalties suck, it's hard work," said center Mike Richards, who logged 4:29 of ice time while the Flyers were short-handed. "It drains you, it takes all the momentum away unless you have a big kill, but it's obviously something we have to be aware of and stay disciplined, especially in the first period."
Currently in last place in the Northeast, the Senators (12-14-5) arguably face a make-or-break portion of their season as they begin a season-high eight-game road trip that extends into mid-January. Ottawa has an Eastern Conference-low eight points on the road, and its three road wins are tied with Los Angeles for the fewest in the NHL.
But the Senators have some confidence heading into this game after finally breaking out offensively in a 5-4 overtime win over Dallas on Saturday. Jason Smith scored the winning goal with 1:30 left, and the Senators netted three power-play goals - as many as they had in their previous 10 games combined.
"It was a real good game by our team," said Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg, whose team had totaled five goals in its previous five games. "I'm really proud of them. They played like a team, they battled, they worked, paid a big price and kind of fitting that Jason Smith scores the winning goal for us in a game like that. That's a huge win for our team."
Hartsburg, who had already reshuffled his lines recently by spreading skilled offensive players Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza among his top three lines, may be without Alfredsson for this game. The Senators captain and team's second-leading scorer is day-to-day with a hip injury after being checked into the boards from behind in the second period.
Ottawa won 4-1 on Nov. 6 in the only meeting between the teams this season.