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Briere lighter and happier heading into season

by Adam Kimelman
The ups and downs of the Philadelphia Flyers' 2009-10 season were personified by Danny Briere. As he gets ready for the 2010-11 season, he's hoping the on- and off-ice issues that troubled him last season are things of the past.

Briere, a native of Gatineau, Que., recently returned to the Philadelphia area to prepare for training camp, which opens Sept. 17. He's tipping the scales at 170 pounds, down a bit from his listed playing weight of 179. But Briere says carrying less weight -- literally and figuratively -- is making him feel a lot better.

"My weight, which is 170 pounds right now, is actually the same as when we were playing in the playoffs last season," Briere said. "I had some personal issues to deal with during the first half of the season last year and I lost a lot of weight. I was able to gain a little bit more going down the stretch, but I'm still about 10 pounds lighter than I have been the last three training camps. After the way things went in the playoffs last year I decided it worked out well at this weight and I wanted to stay at this weight. I'm a little lighter and I wanted to work a little more on my quickness. Obviously, I'm not a guy who is around here for fighting. My assets are my quickness, and I feel being 10 pounds lighter should help me for next season."

Briere hopes to pick up where he ended in June. After a disappointing regular season that saw him mostly playing on the wing, he had 26 goals and 53 points as the Flyers struggled to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the last day of the season.

The postseason, however, was a whole new experience for Briere. Playing mostly center due to an injury to Jeff Carter and feeling reinvigorated on and off the ice, Briere had a career-best run. He led the League with 30 points, the third-most points in one playoff season since 1995, and the most ever by a Flyer in a single postseason.

Twelve of those points came in the six-game Stanley Cup Final series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, which saw him center a line with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino. The threesome combined for 11 goals and 30 points in the series, and Leino finished the playoffs with 21 points, tied for the most in League history by a rookie.

Briere's playoff run was a bit of a surprise, but with injuries to front-line scorers Carter and Simon Gagne, Briere basked in an increased role.

"We got hit by some injuries and we needed some guys to step up," Briere said. "I was asked to play a bigger role and was given more responsibilities. My confidence grew with these added responsibilities. I felt good and all of a sudden (coach) Peter (Laviolette) ended up putting me, Scott Hartnell, who had somewhat of a tough year like I did, and Ville Leino, who barely played up to that point, together. There probably wasn't much expected from our line, but for some reason chemistry set in right away and things got rolling. It was amazing. It is one of the best feelings in the world when every shift you are going out there you have the feeling you are going to make something happen and you have the chance to score."

Briere hopes that feeling carries over into this season. An offseason of changes saw Gagne leave and Nikolai Zherdev and Jody Shelley join the forward corps, but Laviolette recently said he plans on keeping the Briere-Hartnell-Leino trio together at the start of camp.

"I know I had a blast playing with those two guys in the playoffs," Briere said. "I am praying that the chemistry stays right off the get-go at the start of next season."

With all the good and bad from last season now in the past, Briere is looking squarely into the future.

"I'm looking forward to the new season," he said. "Yes, the break was short because we played so long, but that is a good problem to have. I'm sure I speak for a lot of the other guys, but for me, the playoff run was so much fun. All the emotion and the way we came together as a team was really special. I'm so excited for this season to begin."

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