BROSSARD – Daniel Briere spent six seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, but the 35-year-old is ready to put the past behind him when he goes up against the Flyers on Saturday night.
Briere, who signed a two-year deal with the Canadiens in July, was a fan favorite during his time in Pennsylvania with good reason. The Gatineau, QC native scored 25 or more goals three times in a Flyers uniform, while also playing an integral part in helping Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference finals twice and the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010.
While the 5-foot-9 forward has fond memories of his tenure in Flyers orange and black, he is relieved to be getting the first tilt against his former teammates out of the way at the outset of the 2013-14 campaign.
“I’m happy that the matchup with the Flyers is early in the season. I’m also happy the first one is at home. I guess that makes it a little bit easier on the preparation because for me, personally, it’s not a normal game,” said the two-time NHL All-Star, who registered six goals and 16 points in 34 games with Philly in 2012-13. “You’re facing your ex-teammates. I have a lot of friends there. It’ll be a little tougher, but I really believe that playing it in Montreal makes it a little easier.”
Nevertheless, the perennial playoff sniper knows full well the game will be anything but easy. Briere knows the visitors’ dressing room will be full of familiar faces, a few of whom he lived with during his time in Philadelphia. He’s also well aware that Peter Laviolette’s squad doesn’t plan on making him feel comfortable in his new surroundings come Saturday night.
“I don’t expect any breaks from any of them. You try to approach the game like it’s any other one, but obviously there’s a little bit more on the line with your friends and trying to prove something amongst them. I’m sure little battles here and there are going to happen,” confirmed Briere, who has already forged impressive chemistry alongside linemates David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. “On Saturday night, I face my friends, but once the puck drops, they have a job to do and so do we. You have to leave the friendships behind until after the game.”
That’s something Briere has learned through experience over the course of a 15-year playing career that has seen him move from Phoenix to Buffalo to Philadelphia to Montreal. Having played games under similar circumstances multiple times already, the father of three, who will turn 36 on Sunday, believes taking things in stride early on in the contest is the best approach.
“From what I remember, those games were tough to play in. At times, it’s tougher to focus, but I’m hoping with being a little bit more mature, that experience is going to help me when the puck drops,” mentioned Briere. “Hopefully, everything is behind you and you can focus on your game. I can’t wait for the first period to be over. I think after the first period, it’ll be a little easier to move on and the first step will be taken.”
Briere is taking to the Bell Centre ice for the Canadiens’ second game of the season with a clear mind, despite having had the final two seasons of his contract with Philadelphia bought out prior to joining Montreal.
“There’s no extra friction with the Flyers because of it. They treated me with a lot of class. It’s reality. It’s part of the game. They were within their rights,” confided Briere. “On my side, it turned out really well. I get to play for my childhood team. I’m not sure it happens to every player that it turns out so great, but you’ve got to move on.”
Clearly, Briere already has.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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