Daniel Briere's play was a big reason why the Buffalo Sabres were the best regular-season team in the NHL in 2006-07. His absence was also a key factor in their slow start this season.
Briere faces his former team for the first time as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night at HSBC Arena.
Briere developed into one of the game's best offensive centers in three seasons in Buffalo, recording career highs with 32 goals, 63 assists and 95 points in 2006-07 as the Sabres matched a franchise record with 113 points.
As one of the most sought-after players in free agency, Briere made his decision quickly and signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with Philadelphia on July 1.
Briere has not disappointed the Flyers (16-13-3), ranking second on the team with 15 goals, 20 assists and 35 points.
Also making his first appearance in Buffalo as a member of the opposition on Friday will be goaltender Martin Biron, who spent eight seasons with the Sabres before he was traded to the Flyers on Feb. 27.
Biron made 27 saves in a 4-3 win over the Sabres in Philadelphia on April 8.
"They kept saying little comments that only me would know what they're talking about," Biron said after the win. "It brought a few smiles to my face during the game. It keep me loose. It was fun."
The loss of both Briere and fellow center Chris Drury, who signed with the New York Rangers, appeared to signal the end of the Sabres as an elite team. A 6-10-1 record after 17 games only served to reinforce that belief.
An adjustment period to life without Briere and Drury may have been necessary for Buffalo (17-14-1), which is 11-4-0 in its last 15 games, including wins in four straight.
Ryan Miller made a career-high 42 saves and Maxim Afinogenov scored with 2:17 left in the third period, lifting the Sabres to a 2-1 road victory Wednesday over the New York Islanders.
Derek Roy also scored for Buffalo, which has allowed only eight goals during the streak, one shy of a season high.
The news, however, wasn't all good for the Sabres, who lost leading scorer Derek Roy to an injured shoulder in the first period. Center Tim Connolly, third on the team with 25 points, was forced out in the third period with the flu.
Roy missed practice on Thursday and is day-to-day, while coach Lindy Ruff said he'll know more Friday if Connolly is well enough to play against the Flyers.
While Briere's addition has helped make the Flyers a better team after they finished with a franchise record-low 56 points last season, they have cooled off considerably of late.
Philadelphia has lost four straight overall (0-3-1) while dropping eight of nine at home (1-5-3) since opening the season 6-0-0 at the Wachovia Center.
The Flyers squandered a two-goal lead Tuesday in a 3-2 home loss to Phoenix.
"For us, points are more important than this game is for me," Briere said. "It's a special game because I'm coming back to Buffalo. But for us, we're trying to find a way to get back on the right track."
Philadelphia, which has allowed 17 goals during its season-high skid, is 1-8-0 with one tie in its last 10 games at Buffalo.
These teams meet again in Philadelphia on Saturday night.