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by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
(Voorhees, NJ) – Walking into the players’ entrance to the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone, there are two things that are pretty easy to notice.

The first is a bright yellow Lamborghini glowing in the morning sun in the players’ parking lot. The second is the owner of that vehicle, who also has a certain glow about him lately inside the locker room.

It has been said many times this offseason that the biggest addition to the Eastern Conference finalist Flyers’ lineup for the 2008-09 campaign is a healthy Simon Gagne. After all, the two-time 40-goal scorer played in just 25 games last season before he was forced to hang up his skates with a concussion in February.
Simon Gagne poses with his new car outside the Flyers' practice facility on Wednesday. (Flyers Photos)

He started skating again about two weeks ago, and returned to South Jersey for good over the holiday weekend.

“I look at it maybe like [I’m] a free agent that the team signed this year,” said Gagne of the situation. “Hopefully, I can jump in and be able to get back to where I was a year ago. It might take a bit of time, but the way I feel right now and the way I am in shape, I don’t think it will be too long.

“What the team accomplished last year, I think it was great for the team and the fans, and now hopefully adding me to the mix, I can help the team to get going. Last year, we were close to getting to the Stanley Cup Final, and hopefully this year we will do it.”
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After recording 47 goals in 2005-06 and 41 a year later, it looked like Gagne would get right back to that scoring pace at the beginning of last season while playing on a line with the newly signed Danny Briere. In the first seven games that the pair played together, Gagne had four goals and four assists as Philadelphia jumped out to a 6-1-0 start.

It didn’t last, however, as Gagne was hurt during a game in Florida on October 24 and was never himself after that. He finished the season with just seven goals and 11 assists.

A rigorous offseason training program has Gagne feeling like he’s back to where he was before the injury occurred.

“It had to be different,” said Gagne of his summer routine. “Training was a lot harder. I had to regain what I lost last year. I had to work a little bit harder to put myself back in shape, so there was a lot of cardio and a lot of lifting. Plus, I had to follow a diet for the first time in my life, and that was pretty tough. You don’t realize how bad you eat before that.

“I think I’m in good shape right now. I’m back to 198 to 200 pounds, and that was pretty much where I played the last two years, so I’m pretty much back to where I was a year ago.”

Although it’s a little too early to speculate on line combinations with training camp still more than two weeks away, Gagne would love the chance to pair up with Briere once again.

“I hope we’ll have the chance to show off what we can do again. We had a good start last year,” he said. “Hopefully, with a fresh start, we’ll have the chance to play again with each other. I’m looking forward to that.”
For myself, coming back from the tough season, I don’t want to say I was taking everything granted before, but I will definitely enjoy the game a lot more when I will jump on the ice.” - Simon Gagne

Gagne also noted that because he had to watch so many games from the press box and on television last season, he has a newfound appreciation for the game. Not to mention a pretty darn good team.

“I’m very excited, not only for myself because I lost the whole season last year and the playoffs, but with what happened with the team going to the [Eastern Conference Final],” he said. “I think all the guys are excited to see what we did with the group of guys we had here, and we still have all those guys. It’s looking very good for the future."

"For myself, coming back from the tough season, I don't want to say I was taking everything for granted before, but I will definitely enjoy the game a lot more when I jump on the ice."

Hopefully, he’ll enjoy it even more than his new ride.

Trickling back into town

Along with Gagne, several other Flyers players returned to the area over the weekend. Players spotted around the Skate Zone on Wednesday included Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Mike Knuble, Antero Niittymaki, Jeff Carter, Steve Downie, Derian Hatcher, Braydon Coburn, Glen Metropolit, Lasse Kukkonen, Nate Guenin and Ryan Parent.

The players took part in an early skate by themselves, as coaches are not permitted to participate until the beginning of training camp, per league rules. The first on-ice day of training camp is Saturday, September 20 at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone.

A training camp roster and schedule will be released at a later date.
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