Danny Briere has five goals and five assists in 22 games this season with the Canadiens. (USA Today Images)
Danny Briere was a fan favorite during his six seasons in Philadelphia. But he’s also a realist.
Briere isn’t sure what awaits him in the stands when he takes the ice tonight as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
“I’ve seen all kinds here,” he said. “I remember when Mike Richards came back, they kind of let him know with a little ovation for him, and then after that, when he touched the puck he was getting booed. I’m trying to prepare for all sorts of things.”
Chances are, though, Briere will be greeted with far more cheers than boos tonight. Just as he’s had this game circled on his calendar since the summer, plenty of Flyers fans have, too.
The Flyers bought Briere out in July, but he’s said time and again since then that Philadelphia remains his home and will be his home when his playing days are done.
This will be the second time Briere has faced the Flyers as a member of the Canadiens this season -- the two teams met in Montreal on Oct. 5. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be strange to wear red and blue in a building otherwise decked out in orange, and to dress in a different locker room, and sit with his team on the other bench.
“We’ll see,” Briere said. “I don’t really know what to expect too much. Obviously it’s good to come back to see everyone. I also believe that having faced my ex-teammates once in Montreal, it’s going to be a little easier. The first game’s always the toughest. I was happy that it was in Montreal rather than here.
“It’ll be a little different here. This building, to deal with that. It’s definitely going to be emotional.”
Briere had a rough start with the Canadiens, sustaining a concussion back in October and struggling to get his offensive game started. Since then, however, he’s feeling significantly more comfortable.
He has five goals and five assists in 22 games, though he didn’t register any points against the Flyers in that first meeting.
Tonight will be a challenge. As an honest, experienced hockey player -- Briere, 36, has been in the NHL since 1998 -- he knows he’ll be distracted.
On Wednesday, Briere did his best to squeeze in time with friends and family. Now, it’s back to business. And he’s doing his best not to think about how or when it’ll really hit him that he’s back in his old home.
“I’m trying not to think too much about it,” Briere said. “I’ll try to soak it all in when it comes. At this time, I try not to focus on that, I try to focus on how I’m going to play, what I’ve got to do. Basically I’m just trying to keep it simple. It’s easy to get lost in all the emotions and get derailed on your own game.
“It kind of happened in the first game in Montreal against the Flyers. I’m trying to stay a little bit more focused. If I can, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do that. But that’s what I’m trying to do now.”