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Now out of the comfort zone, Flyers face make or break stretch

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Devils. Bruins. Penguins. Penguins. Rangers. That's the schedule for the Philadelphia Flyers over the next week.

It's officially make or break time. This team needs to string points together right now. Not only are all of these teams rivals, they're all pretty strong opponents. Yeah, you could argue against the Rangers, who have been stuck in neutral just like the Flyers. If you think they won't be up for the first game of the season against the orange and black, though, you're mistaken.

The key is for the Flyers to match intensity this week. The largest problem with this team right now is a simple lack of confidence. They lack it in basically every aspect of the game besides goaltending, and it's a major reason why they simply can't put the puck in the net.

The firing of their coach and friend John Stevens probably didn't help the fragile self-esteem of this group. After all, it's easy to forget that the core of this team is still quite young. They were one of the youngest in the league last year, and the additions of Chris Pronger and Ian Laperriere, along with the subtractions of Joffrey Lupul and Scottie Upshall, have only gone so far in changing that fact.

Besides, Pronger and Laperriere, two guys who were brought in largely to take leadership roles on the club, haven't done so, at least when it comes to an off-ice role, with Pronger saying things like how he doesn't want to step on Mike Richards' toes.

So far under Peter Laviolette, though, the Flyers have been taken out of their comfort zone. In comes a new coach, holding them accountable for stupid, undisciplined penalties right off the bat. Pronger has been, seemingly, a more vocal presence since Laviolette has come on. The new coach has moved morning game day skates from the Wachovia Center to the Skate Zone in Voorhees, where they were located for almost 30 years prior to last season.

That decision a year ago was made in large part to help the younger players, who live in Center City Philadelphia. Now, those young players will have to drive the extra 20 to 30 minutes over the bridge to the practice rink every morning while the veterans, who for the most part live in South Jersey, are given the luxury of the shorter drive on game day mornings.

Laviolette said the issue wasn't even up for debate. He also went into tactical reasons for the move, such as not wanting to be in the same building as the opponent so the team could go over secretive things like power play formations and the like without the other team seeing what he's doing. But whether it was the main reason for the move or not, the young, under performing core has been effectively taken out of their comfort zone.

Now, it's up to them to respond and show they have something to prove. They have to take this personally. Richards has to lead the charge, emotionally and on the ice. He can set the tone for this team early on, and he'll have to against the Devils for the team to have any success. It's not that Richards has to score a goal in the first ten minutes. But when he's at his best, he's zipping around the ice, doing anything possible to make a high-percentage play. He has to set that tone, but his linemates and the other goal scorers on the team have to follow. That means Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, James van Riemsdyk, and most of all, Jeff Carter, have to match his intensity.

The third and fourth lines will continue to get it done. They've been working hard this entire stretch, and that's not surprising given the make-up of those two units. You've got guys like Laperriere and Asham leading the charge on the third line, and those guys simply don't let up. And on the fourth line, you've got a bunch of guys fighting to make a name for themselves in what they know will be a limited time in the NHL.

We have to hope that going up against a few rivals this week, especially the Penguins in a home-and-home that caps off in Philadelphia, will give the Flyers big guns the spark they so desperately need. If you're going to prove that you're still capable of winning the Cup this season, you've got to win against your Cup-contending rivals. You've got to win this week.