Simon Gagne an asset for struggling Flyers

Simon Gagne an asset for struggling Flyers

February 27, 2013, 2:00 pm
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There are nine players with the Flyers who have played with Simon Gagne as a Flyer. Different eras, too.

Gagne, a 13-year veteran, might be the most beloved Flyer to have come and gone, and come back.

A class act on and off the ice.

Danny Briere was perhaps Gagne’s best friend when he was last here with the 2009-10 Flyers -- a struggling club much like this one -- who got hot in the playoffs and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final against Chicago.

“It’s exciting to see an ex-teammate come back in the fold,” Briere said. “Having someone you played with and fought battles with before, it’s fun to have him back on our side.

“Simon is so versatile, there’s many things he can do. He has speed, he can kill penalties, power play, score, play defensively.

“One of those players who has played everywhere [in the league] in his career. I’m sure he’ll be able to help us in many different ways.

“It’s not a secret we’re a very young team. It’s another guy with a lot of experience, who just won a Stanley Cup in LA. It’s another voice, a guy who will be part of the leadership group here.”

Gagne was not at the morning skate after a red-eye flight Tuesday night from Los Angeles to arrive for tonight’s critical game against the Washington Capitals.

Coach Peter Laviolette told Gagne to get rest, be ready to play and not attend the skate. Gagne has played for Laviolette and knows the system. His adjustment should be fairly quick.

“There is always a little bit of an adjustment when a player comes to a team,” Laviolette said. “It is easier when they have been there and played for the coach and know a lot of the system. That makes it a little bit easier ... He was really excited to be back here.”

Much like Ruslan Fedotenko, another former Flyer teammate, Gagne has a Stanley Cup ring, his with the LA Kings. He becomes another voice of respectability and winning in the dressing room for young players.

He can also be a confidant to another close friend -- team captain Claude Giroux.

“We’ve got some veterans guys, but we have quite a few young guys,” Brian Boucher said, another former teammate. “This year, in particular, it is tough. You have to do things on the fly.

“It’s such a tightened schedule. You have to make adjustments as you go. With some veteran leadership, he’s a guy we can lean upon to help us out in that regard. Experience is big at times. You need youth, too, but a good mix of it is always health.”

Gagne didn’t have a goal in 11 games with the Kings this season, but he has scored some big goals for the Flyers during his career.

Go back to the 2004 Eastern Conference finals against Tampa Bay. General manager Bob Clarke called Gagne out before Game 6, challenging him to elevate himself from a “good” player to a “great player.”

Gagne scored twice that night, including the overtime-winner, to force a Game 7.

During the Flyers' 2010 playoff run, after missing playoff games, he returned from a fractured right foot in Game 4 against Boston to score the game-winner, then scored two goals at Boston in Game 5 and scored the game-winner again in Game 7, as the Flyers came back to win that playoff series.

Gagne played well against Montreal and finished the playoffs with nine goals and 12 points.

“He’s an experienced forward that comes in and gives us a lot of different options on how to use him,” Laviolette said.

“He is a smart defensive player, a proven scorer. Can kill some penalties, can help on the power play. He brings a lot to the table and to our lineup, along with experience. He brings experienced and leadership in the lockerroom.”

Gagne might be able to ignite Sean Couturier, who is going through a sophomore slump this season with just two goals. He has not scored a goal since Jan. 27 at Tampa Bay.

With Mike Knuble scratched for tonight’s game against the Caps, a possible line could be Couturier centering Gagne and either Max Talbot or Harry Zolnierczyk.

“The makeup of Coots' line had changed a little bit when we moved [Jakub] Voracek,” Laviolette said. “And focus more on the defensive side of things than the offensive side of things.

“Simon will add that to whatever line he goes to. He can bring a reliable player, but he has a lot of offensive talent in him.”

No. 12
Zolnierczyk willingly gave up his No. 12 to Gagne, even without being asked.

“The number changed; I didn’t even pick 12 over the summer,” Zolnierczyk said. “It was something they did here. No questions [in giving it up]. Twelve is his number. I was just filling in there for a little bit.”

Gagne wore No. 12 in Philadelphia from 1999 through 2009-10 and wore it both Tampa Bay and Los Angeles.

Harry Z will wear a treasured number, nonetheless: No. 37.

In a lot of people’s minds, that number should forever belong to Eric Desjardins, who wore it from 1994 through 2006.

Timonen's boot
Kimmo Timonen has been wearing a walking boot when coming and going to the rink.

“He has plantar fasciitis,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “It doesn’t affect him when he is in a skate.”

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