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Oh, Danny Boy

by Anthony SanFilippo / Philadelphia Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. – Danny Briere said he had something to play for over the final eight games of the season, even if they probably wouldn’t have an immediate impact for the Flyers.

Firstly, Briere was returning Saturday from a concussion suffered in practice March 23 that had forced him to miss the previous 10 games.

So, there was that.

But it’s also one final shot to prove to the Flyers that he’s still got a little bit of that magic that made him such a special player during his six years with the franchise.

And he nearly pulled out the wand and made it happen in the final second in Buffalo - his home prior to Philadelphia.

He got off one , final, desperation shot to try to tie the game, and then looke dskyward as it rang off the crossbar, resulting in another loss for the Flyers.

"That's the way things are going these days around here," Briere said. "It's unfortunate."

Unfortunate would also be a good way to describe Briere's season, arguably the worst of his storied career.

A shortened season, two different injuries that cost him 14 games, or more than a quarter of the campaign. Then there are the point totals: five goals, eight assists for 13 points - the fewest in his 18-year career among games in which he's played a minimum of 27 games - or the same number he's played now.

It's been a season of frustration for Briere, which has led to a lot of questions about his future.

But one thing is for certain - If he has it his way, he'll stay in Philadelphia until he retires.

Briere is a single parent to three sons – Caelen, Carson and Cameron – and they all live permanently in southern New Jersey where their mom has made a full-time home.

So, the notion of playing somewhere else, further away from them is not something Briere wants to think about.

"This is where I want to be," Briere said recently. "With my kids being here, obviously it would be tough to have to go somewhere else. I want to be here and I'm going to try everything in my power to stay here."

With it looking more and more like the team is going to play out the string over the next two weeks, it would have been easy for Briere to just stay on the injured list for the rest of the season and not risk playing too soon coming off a concussion.

But that would have been a cop out -- and that's certainly not Briere's nature. Briere wants to prove that even though the 27 games he has played this season weren’t among his career-best, that he is still a viable player in the NHL.

“If it wasn’t [important], I wouldn’t be trying to comeback,” Briere said. “Nobody knows exactly about concussions but we’re starting to learn a little bit more than the past few years. Even myself. If you take care of it and let it heal fully, usually there are no setbacks. It’s when you try to force things and try to come back too soon when you get into trouble. At this point I fell ready to go and 100 percent.

“It’s not a test. It’s about getting back out there playing. I’ve seen too many guys go down – especially in this organization – long term with a concussion, If I was worried at all or I had any doubts I wouldn’t be coming back.”

For a player who has meant so much to the Flyers organization, he deserves this shot. He deserves these last couple of weeks – if for no other reason, but for his fans, and make no mistake about it, he is definitely one of the most popular players on the team among those in the fan base.

Consider that Briere was the free agent who believed enough in the Flyers coming off the worst season in the history of their franchise, to choose to sign with them as opposed to several other clubs that made huge offers, including Montreal, which could have been a childhood dream come true for Briere.

Consider that Briere was the offensive catalyst in one of the most memorable runs to a Stanley Cup Final in league history, and would have easily been the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP had the Flyers won the Cup instead of Chicago in 2010.

Actually, Briere has been one of the most prolific playoff performers in the NHL among active players, trailing only Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias in career playoff points.

To see him struggle, as he has at times this season, is certainly not commonplace - neither is considering a Flyers team without him being part of the fabric.

But that's a conversation for another time. For now, Flyers fans should definitely savor the rest of this season by watching Briere – and even a few others who have given so much to this organization who have uncertain (unrestricted free agents) futures – like Mike Knuble, Simon Gagne and Ruslan Fedotenko.

Because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

"Whatever happens, you never quit, that's what I'm telling [my sons]," Briere said. "They hear kids at school. It's part of reality. I teach them, 'You can't quit. You've got to keep going forward, you give it all you've got, and then you deal with whatever happens after that.'”

To contact Anthony SanFilippo email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37

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