Danny Briere signed a two-year deal worth $8 million with Montreal in the offseason. (USA Today Images)
Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux both lived with Danny Briere for a time.
Couturier, however, was his housemate, along with Briere’s three boys, for 18 months.
“We talked once in a while and are still in touch -- he’s a good friend,” Couturier said. “It’s a special game for both of us.
“You are with him almost 24/7. Since Day One, he took me under his wing and kind of adopted me. I felt like a big brother to his kids, his boys. It was a fun experience.”
It’s one thing to go up against former teammates, but imagine how awkward it’s going to be Saturday in Montreal for all three players when the Flyers meet the Canadiens for the first time this season.
“Facing guys I have been with a lot of years, the past few seasons, guys I had a chance to live with, it’s kind of a weird feeling,” Briere said. “You’re excited to see them, but it’s also weird to face them. We all know when the puck drops, it gets competitive. I know these guys are the same way. They’re not going to give me an inch out there.
“It’s never easy when you face ex-teammates. I remember my first few games facing Buffalo with the Flyers, they were always tough games, mentally to get ready for and also on the ice. You have to shut off the fact they’re you buddies and try to move on for that three-hour span.”
The Flyers bought Briere out of the final two years of his contract last June. He was owed just $5 million in real dollars (not salary cap dollars). Briere ended up signing a two-year deal with Montreal worth $8 million overall.
“There’s no hard feelings,” he said. “I said it the day I talked to you guys after the Flyers bought me out. There are no hard feelings. They were very respectful ... Honestly, I have no complaints. It was agreed upon, it was fair and the Flyers needed to get under the cap. I understand. You move on.”
Briere spent much of August training with the Flyers at Skate Zone in Voorhees. His boys live in Haddonfield, NJ, with his ex-wife. They will get to fly back and forth to Montreal as their school schedule, plus the Canadiens' schedule, permits.
“It’s working out good,” Briere said. “In today’s world with all the communications that we have, it’s a lot easier to communicate and stay in touch. Last year, I got a little taste of it with playing in Europe during the lockout. It’s not ideal but we make it work.”
Briere had been the Flyers' biggest offensive threat in the playoffs during his six years here. Besides leading the NHL in the 2010 playoffs with 30 points, Briere compiled 37 goals, 35 assists for 72 points in 68 playoff games -- better than a point-a-game player as a Flyer.
Briere was minus-1 in Montreal’s season-opening 4-3 loss to Toronto. He played on David Desharnais’ line with Max Pacioretty.
He was honored pregame when Montreal allowed him to accept the torch from Habs legend Guy Lafleur, a tradition before every hockey season symbolizing handing the reins of leadership of the team.
“Yeah, it was a pretty special feeling and very special night,” Briere said. “I think the Montreal Canadiens organization showed a lot of class by giving me that chance to be the first one to get that torch from one of the all-time greats in Guy Lafleur.
It’s different being a French-Canadien playing in Quebec than being American or even a Canadian from another province.
When he didn’t sign with Montreal as a free agent after leaving Buffalo seven years ago, people in Quebec felt betrayed. Briere was booed every time he touched the puck during the six years he was a Flyer.
Back then, he was younger -- had not even turned 30 -- and admitted he didn’t want the pressure of playing in Montreal. Now it’s different. He’s older -- turns 36 in two days -- and far more mature.
“Everyone is different,” he said. “There are players out there that it doesn’t affect them. The media pressure just won’t affect them. Other guys would rather stay away from it. They’d rather play in a quiet place and do their job and not be bothered.
“We all have different personalities. It works for certain guys and doesn’t work as well for other guys. I really believe it is easier as you get older and get to know yourself better. You’re a little bit more mature.”
He’s had one major adjustment in Montreal from Philly.
“Having to do interviews in French and English,” he said. “Whatever it takes, 15-20 minutes, you have to double that. I was coming in knowing that and expecting it from the start. At my age, too, it might be easier to face that, deal with that than if I were 20, 21, 22 years old.”
The Flyers had trouble scoring goals last season, had trouble scoring goals this preseason, and got just one against the Maple Leafs.
Briere said there was too much offensive talent on the Flyers for scoring to become a serious issue with them. He did add …
“Hopefully, it lasts one more game."