That explains why Zherdev, who has been upset that he's averaging only about 12 1/2 minutes per game, was not a happy camper Thursday; he refused to talk with reporters.
Oddly, Zherdev's latest demotion came after one of his most productive games of the season. Yes, he had a few defensive lapses, but the shifty winger also had a goal and four hits in the Flyers' 6-3 win over Buffalo on Tuesday, earning praise from head coach Peter Laviolette.
During Thursday's practice, Zherdev, 25, was on a line with Blair Betts and Jody Shelley. Andreas Nodl had been on that line against Buffalo, but he was moved Thursday to Zherdev's old spot on a line with Mike Richards and the goalless James van Riemsdyk.
At first, Laviolette hinted that the switch had more to do with Nodl's improvement than Zherdev's play.
"There was no message-sending there," said Laviolette, whose 4-4-1 team plays in Pittsburgh (5-4-1) on Friday. "Nodl played good, and I wanted to see him on that line today. I think he's worked hard, and he's done what we've asked."
How would he evaluate Zherdev, who signed a $2 million, free-agent contract in the off-season after playing last season in Russia?
"In the last game, I thought he had the puck more," Laviolette said. "He tried to be physical. Again, I think it's coming. Probably at times he wants to contribute more - and we want the same."
Zherdev, who had 27- and 26-goal seasons in Columbus, has two goals and no assists in nine games this season.
Friday's meeting will be the third time the Flyers have faced the cross-state rival Penguins in the first 10 games.
"I love playing guys I don't like," defenseman Braydon Coburn said with a slight smile.
The teams each have road wins against each other this season.
In recent years, winger Scott Hartnell has been a target of Pittsburgh's fans. He said they serenade him with a vulgar chant that rhymes with his last name.
"They make fun of my name out there. I'm not a big fan of it, but I have to go and battle through it," Hartnell said.
Coming off the victory over Buffalo, the Flyers are looking for their first two-game winning streak of the season.
"It's kind of been one [performance] on, one off this year," Hartnell said. "It's time we put a little streak together. Winning is a lot more fun than losing. That's what we talked about last game."
In the win over Buffalo, the Flyers committed just four penalties, a season low.
"There's ongoing talk about discipline on this team," Laviolette said. "The [opponents' power-play] opportunities are down. They need to continue to come down. Some of the penalties we've taken are not good penalties. We've given talented people an opportunity while we're short on the ice."
Entering Thursday, the Flyers had committed more minor penalties (55) than any NHL team. Overall, they were 27th in the 30-team league with an average of 18.2 penalty minutes per game, while Pittsburgh was 23d with 16.1 penalty minutes per game.
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.