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Flyers' Gagne feels like a new man

by Chuck Gormley
The Philadelphia Flyers were uncharacteristically quiet during the NHL's free-agent signing spree this summer, shedding far more salary than they took on.

Gone are solid two-way forward R.J. Umberger (traded to Columbus) and dressing room leaders Jason Smith (signed with Ottawa) and Sami Kapanen (signed in Finland).

In their places are relative unknowns like Glen Metropolit, Arron Asham, Steve Eminger, Ossi Vaananen and … Simon Gagne?

"The way I look at it, I might be the free agent the Flyers signed this year," Gagne said recently. "I wasn't a big part of the team last year and I want to be a big part this season."

Gagne said the concussions symptoms that kept him out of all but 25 games last season are completely gone, thanks to an innovative injection therapy called prolotherapy.

Gagne, 28, first heard about the procedure while watching a health segment on a Philadelphia news channel. He contacted Dr. Scott Greenberg, who specializes in prolotherapy at
Magaziner Center For Wellness and Anti-Aging in Cherry Hill, N.J.

"When I first saw Simon back in April, he had neck pain, dizziness and real bad headaches," Greenberg said. "But he also had a tilt to his pelvis and some back pain. His symptoms were very similar to whiplash."

Gagne underwent a series of anesthetic injections in his neck, head, shoulders, pelvis and back. Greenberg said the injections are generally made up of two anesthetics and an inflammatory agent such as dextrose or cod liver extract.

According to Greenberg, the inflammatory agent tells the body there is an area that needs repair. The body then sends white-blood cells that help remove debris from the area and repair damaged tissue, tendons and ligaments.

Gagne underwent weekly prolotherapy treatments throughout the spring and was seriously considering returning to the Flyers' lineup if they had made it past the Pittsburgh Penguins and into the Stanley Cup Final. He now receives treatments once a month.

"He's completely pain free," Greenberg said. "He can now track the puck with no problems and his balance is perfect."

Gagne has also stepped up his offseason training regimen. At the advice of teammate Daniel Briere, he is working once a week with Hugo Girard, a five-time winner of Canada's Strongest Man competition. Briere began working with Girard in 2001 and Gagne decided to try the rigorous program this summer. Girard, who is best known for pulling an 80-ton Boeing 737, stands 6-foot-2, 330 pounds and has a 62-inch chest, a 33-inch waist and 22-inch biceps.

Under Girard's direction, Gagne has hurled tires and has run 30-yard sprints while carrying bags of sand.

"It has really helped with my balance and foot quickness," Gagne said. "I'm in better shape now than before I got hurt."

That is precisely what Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren was hoping for when he met with Gagne during individual meetings at the end of last season.

"Simon's taking his conditioning a little more seriously," Holmgren said. "He's changed his diet and he has set new parameters for himself. He's pushing himself to the max."

A two-time 40-goal scorer, Gagne said he's anxious to get back on the ice to see the results of his summer therapy. Gagne is likely to return to a top line with Briere at center and either Joffrey Lupul, Mike Knuble or rookie Claude Giroux on the right wing.

"The first few days of training camp are going to be huge for him," Holmgren said. "I'm more excited for him than I am concerned."

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