Danny Briere: Facing the Flyers won't be easy


Danny Briere: Facing the Flyers won't be easy

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."

Steve Mason, Flyers hope to channel emotion in opener

Steve Mason, Flyers hope to channel emotion in opener

Fiftieth anniversary home opener. Electricity in the stands. And a stirring tribute to the late Ed Snider, the founding father of the franchise.

All of that is on tap Thursday night for the Flyers as they welcome the Anaheim Ducks to the Wells Fargo Center.

Steve Mason, who didn’t get the start in Los Angeles for the season opener, gets the nod in the even larger home curtain lift.

“It’s a special night for everybody who is involved with it,” the Flyers’ goalie said. “This organization is rich in history, largely because of Mr. Snider. 

“It will be nice to see him get the respect he most definitely deserves beforehand. It will be an honor to be part of it.”

Fans attending the game will have lighted bracelets hanging off their seats for the on-ice tribute to Snider. His family will be there, as well.

When the Flyers offered a bracelet tribute to Snider last April in their playoff home opener (Game 3) against Washington, fans threw the bracelets on the ice during a 6-1 blowout loss.

“It’s up to us to give them reasons to keep them on their wrists,” Mason said. “They’re cool introduction shows and you hope everyone is respectful.”

Some of the Flyers said they need to channel the emotion of the evening toward getting off to a better start in the game. The Flyers had poor starts in their recent three-game road trip out west.

“Most guys are pretty excited, it’s going to be a full house and there’s nothing like opening at home,” said Nick Cousins, who is back in the lineup (Roman Lyubimov is out). “I’m looking forward to it. There will be a lot of emotion in the building. 

“Mr. Snider was the heart and soul of the Flyers. Very passionate about the hockey team. Like I said, there’s going to be a lot of emotion in the building. Hopefully, we can get this win for him. The boys are looking forward to it.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said he addressed his club briefly today about channeling their energy off the Snider ceremony into something positive without being consumed by it.

“We discussed it a little bit in a quick team meeting,” Hakstol said. “And really, there’s nothing more to be said. Take that emotion, take that energy and direct in the right way into our game. 

“Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, but our group is veteran enough in here that we will be able to do that.”

On Cousins
Hakstol said he didn’t want to leave Cousins sit “too long.” 

Cousins said the explanation for his benching in Chicago wasn’t punitive and that Hakstol explained to him he wanted to get Lyubimov his first taste of NHL play.

“I really like what Lubey did in his role the other night,” Hakstol said. “I thought he took a step forward. But tonight we got Cuz back in there and the things he brings to the table are important to us.”

Provorov bounce-back
Rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov was minus-5 in the 7-4 loss at Chicago. He was responsible, in part, for three goals.

“It happens to the best of us,” Provorov said, sounding like a veteran. “The best players in the world make mistakes. If nobody made mistakes, the game would end 0-0. 

“The thing that separates the better players from average players is they limit those kind of nights. It happens to all of us. You learn from it and move on.” 



Flyers-Ducks 5 things: An extra-meaningful home opener

Flyers-Ducks 5 things: An extra-meaningful home opener

Flyers vs. Ducks
7 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live at 6

The Wells Fargo Center will be filled with emotion Thursday night.

It marks the beginning of the Flyers’ home schedule for the organization’s first season without iconic founder Ed Snider, who died in April. The team is planning a special pregame tribute to commemorate the man who birthed the franchise in 1966.

Building blocks Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov will make their regular-season home debuts as 19-year-olds, another significant shift for the franchise.

And hockey returns to South Philadelphia.

The Flyers (1-1-1) welcome the Anaheim Ducks (0-3-1) for their 2016-17 home opener.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Schenn returns
With Brayden Schenn’s return from a three-game suspension, the Flyers now see a full arsenal at the head of their lineup, making for a top six head coach Dave Hakstol and the front office likely envisioned when the decision came to keep Konecny.

Schenn will rejoin Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds on the Flyers’ first line, followed by the fast-starting second unit of Konecny, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, which has produced 10 points over the opening three games.

"Obviously Brayden coming back is going to be big for us," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday. "He's a physical presence, he scores goals, he's good on the power play. So I think Brayden [will make] a big impact, too, so it's nice to get your lines in how Hak foresees them.”

The 25-year-old forward, with a new four-year deal signed this offseason after a career year, is a huge component to the Flyers’ man advantage, on which he scored the team’s second-most goals (11) and tied for the second-most points (22).

Typically a player that heats up in January and February, Schenn is motivated beginning the season in position to replicate his 26-goal, 33-assist campaign in 2015-16.

"I think I continue to get more confident and get better every year,” Schenn said. “I think heading into this year, I start off with a great opportunity to play with great players throughout the start here and try to run with it. I feel confident, I feel good heading into Game 1 for me.

"I'm going to do everything in my power to try and beat my points from last year."

2. The rookie’s response
That would be Provorov, who endured his first game to forget as an NHLer in the Flyers’ 7-4 loss to the Blackhawks on Tuesday.

The blueliner committed a few mistakes, highlighted by a costly blunder, en route to a game-worst minus-5 rating.

Provorov has spoiled fans thus far with his precociousness. For once, he actually looked 19.

It’ll be interesting to see how he answers in a hyped-up environment such as the home opener. The Flyers are not worried, nor should they be.

"Even though there were a couple of mistakes and a couple of things that didn't go right, he just kept playing,” Hakstol said. “He kept trying to make a difference in the game. I think that shows his overall mentality and his care of the team. Those are things that kind of tell you where his maturity level is at."

3. Not-so mighty Ducks
Anaheim is off to a lousy start.

Winless through four contests, the Ducks are 29th among the NHL in both goals per game (1.75) and goal differential (minus-5).

Interestingly, Anaheim was handed a five-game road trip to start the season. The Ducks also started slow in 2015-16, going 1-7-2 over their first 10 games. However, they finished with an overall goal differential of plus-26 and a playoff berth.

They also went 21-15-5 on the road and boasted the league’s No. 1 power play and penalty kill.

The absences of forward Rickard Rakell (abdomen) and defenseman Hampus Lindholm (contract holdout) have not helped.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: We’ll say Schenn — who’s “chomping at the bit,” according to Hakstol — makes a dent in his first game. Over his past four season debuts, Schenn has two goals and one assist.

Ducks: Skilled center Ryan Getzlaf is a tough matchup with his 6-foot-4 frame. He also owns five goals and 10 assists in 12 career games against the Flyers.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason will start in net for the Flyers after relief duty in Tuesday’s loss. He’s 5-9-2 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in 17 games lifetime against the Ducks.

• Anaheim goalie John Gibson is 0-2-1 with a 3.07 goals-against average to start the season. He’s faced the Flyers only once in his career, beating them, 4-2, on Dec. 27 of last season with 24 saves.

• Nick Cousins is back in the lineup for Roman Lyubimov. The forwards were swapped on Tuesday as Cousins was scratched and Lyubimov made his NHL debut.

Michael Raffl is out 10 to 14 days with an upper-body injury. Schenn essentially fills his spot in the lineup.

• The Flyers have lost three of their last four home openers.

• Konecny leads all NHL rookies in assists with four.