Those with a really keen eye for detail -- OK, anyone with even a faint pulse -- probably noticed over the years that the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers don't care much for one another.
They surely share some degree of professional respect, because both teams employ some high-quality talent, but there isn't a whole lot of mutual admiration, and both sides likely would bristle at the suggestion the teams have much in common. But as October winds down, they share at least one trait: Neither has played the way it wants with any sort of regularity this season.
The Penguins' game Friday against the Flyers at Consol Energy Center was their 11th, and coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged after the game-day skate that the first 10-game segment of 2010-11 did not establish the standards of performance his club wants.
"Generally, I don't think our team has really carved an identity yet, on how we're going to play games and how we're going to win games," he said.
"We've certainly played some really tough games -- the Nashville game was a tough game, and we worked really hard, battled hard to get that win in overtime -- but we haven't played a game where we've dictated the pace of the play for 60 minutes.
"That's something we're looking to do, and we want as part of our identity. "
Bylsma's Philadelphia counterpart, Peter Laviolette, can relate to that lack of consistency. The Flyers failed to win consecutive games the first three weeks of the season.
"Some nights are good," Laviolette said. "We can see who we are. Other nights, we forget, or we're not quite as sharp as we need to be."
Mike Comrie entered Friday night's game with no goals and four assists in nine games.
That lack of production hasn't necessarily cost him any chance of being an impact player for the Penguins, but it did get him knocked off the No. 2 line.
Arron Asham, playing just his second game since returning from a shoulder injury, replaced Comrie on that unit with Evgeni Malkin and Mark Letestu at the game-day skate.
"[Comrie] has not brought what he brought in training camp," Bylsma said. "That's something we're looking for him to add. He'll be used on the power play and in spots to be able to do that for us in the next couple of games."
Asham is best-known for his rugged style, but he has experience on skill-oriented lines. Enough to know that he shouldn't alter the way he plays just because of who he happens to be alongside.
"I really can't [change my game]," Asham said. "I play the way I've played my whole career. I've been on some lines with some skilled guys during my career, and haven't really changed much. Once I start changing, that's when my game starts to falter."
Goalie Brent Johnson is breaking in a new set of all-black equipment, but it probably won't make its debut when the Penguins visit Carolina at 7:08 p.m. today even if, as expected, he gets the start.
Fact is, Johnson has a pretty specific criterion for when he'll use his new pads, glove and blocker in a game.
"I'm going to have to come in the dressing room one day, and the only lights that are going to be on are shining on these," he said, smiling. "That's the only way I'll go with them right now. They're [in need of] just a little bit more tweaking."
Johnson said that he did not ask for black equipment, but that the color is part of a "new design" from the company with which he is associated.
"I wasn't really sure how guys would like them, but everyone says they looked good," Johnson said. "They're kind of different to look at.
"I wouldn't say 'intimidating,' or anything like that, but maybe [shooters will be] a little bit thrown off by how dark they are, since most goalies have mostly white pads."
Before Friday night's games, the Penguins ranked third in the Eastern Conference with 11 points. The Flyers were just two points behind them, but were a full six spots back in the standings.
At this time of year, a good -- or bad -- weekend could be enough to dramatically change a team's place in its conference.
"Usually, it's around Christmastime when teams start to separate themselves," Laviolette said. "You're two losses away from being last in your conference, and two wins away from being first."
First Published October 30, 2010 4:00 AM