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Briere hopes to return on Friday

by Brian Compton
A few thoughts while we wait for John Tortorella's debut on Broadway:

Almost ready -- It's been a tough season for Philadelphia Flyers forward Danny Briere, who is trying to repay the club after it invested more than $50 million in him in the summer of 2007.

Briere did that last season, when he tallied 31 goals and 41 assists in 79 games and helped the team go from worst in the NHL to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, groin injuries have limited the talented center to just nine contests in 2008-09. But with each passing day, Briere is feeling better and better. So much so that he plans on returning to game action Friday night, when the Flyers host the Montreal Canadiens.

"We had a pretty hard skate there at the end and we'll see tomorrow how it reacts," Briere said  Monday. "Last week, after Wednesday's skate, the next couple of days were a little tougher. I'm hoping that I'm going to pull over that hump, and even through a tough practice and tough skate, I can recuperate and be fine the next day."

Briere -- who is in the second year of an eight-year, $52 million contract -- is expected to travel with the Flyers and practice with the team before Tuesday's game against the Washington Capitals. A healthy Briere would be a big bonus for the Flyers as they make their playoff push.

Philadelphia (31-17-9) currently sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, but is just four points ahead of the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes.

Briere was in a similar situation when he played for Buffalo in 2005-06, and came back strong after missing 32 games with an abdominal injury to lead the Sabres to their first playoff berth in four years. He had 19 points in 18 games that postseason.

Could he do the same for the Flyers?

"Hope so," said Briere, smiling. "You've got to get that confidence back. You've got to get that timing back."

Before he can return, Philadelphia must eliminate $2.5 million in salary-cap space. That's obviously one of the biggest reasons why the Flyers are in no rush to get Briere back in uniform.

"We're not going to put Danny in until he's ready," coach John Stevens said. "We're not going to push Danny ahead of schedule and put him in harm's way. I think he has to feel comfortable with when he comes back, and when he is, we'll get him in."

Sharks keep rolling -- Another game, another win for the San Jose Sharks.

And another shutout for Evgeni Nabokov.

The Sharks' goaltender was perfect again Monday night, as he stopped all 29 shots he faced to lead his club to a 1-0 win against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. It was San Jose's fourth-straight win, as the Sharks became the first team this season to reach the 90-point plateau.

''Fabulous,'' San Jose coach Todd McLellan said of Nabokov, who recorded his 45th career shutout.
''He was the first, second and third star in my opinion. He allowed us to escape with the point. I'm happy for Nabby. On the last road trip, a lot of pucks went by him and it wasn't his fault. This was really good for him as an individual and us as a team.''

Nabokov didn't do it alone, though. The players in front of him blocked 17 shots Monday night and Devin Setoguchi broke a scoreless tie with his 25th goal of the season at 7:55 of the third period. Dallas went 0-for-4 on the power play.

''Anytime they had a chance to play a rebound, we cleared the puck or blocked the shot,'' Nabokov said. ''It felt good, but the puck is really small. It can take any bounce. Anything could happen. You never have the feeling that you're not going to give up a goal.''

The Stars were blanked for the fifth time this season. To be fair, they were missing top players such as Mike Modano (flu), Brad Richards (broken wrist) and Brenden Morrow (knee). Richards and Morrow could be ready to return in the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- should Dallas qualify. The Stars currently reside in seventh place in the Western Conference with 65 points.

''It was a tight game,'' Nabokov said. ''Give them credit. They were desperate to win and they played really hard even though they did not have a lot of their best players on the ice.''
Contact Brian Compton at:

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.   


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