All systems are go for the return of left wing Simon Gagne
on Saturday afternoon when the Philadelphia Flyers
play host to the New York Rangers
at Wachovia Center.
Gagne, who admitted to feeling the best he's felt in months on Friday during practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., is looking forward to joining his teammates and offering some much-needed offensive assistance. Philadelphia, which is currently 15th in the Eastern Conference with 32 points, has scored just seven goals over its last five games.
"I think any time you get a top-six (forward) back, you're getting a boost to your lineup," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
. "The name of the game is offense, and the top teams in the League are scoring goals. He gives us more of a threat when he's on the ice."
Gagne, 29, skated alongside captain Mike Richards
and Dan Carcillo
during practice on Friday. The return of Gagne will certainly provide Laviolette more offensive options.
"It keeps (Jeff) Carter's line (with Scott Hartnell
and Danny Briere
) intact, and I thought (Claude Giroux
's) line (with James van Riemsdyk
and Arron Asham
) did a good job. It should be a good balance."
"(Friday) was pretty much the first time I enjoyed myself in practice," Gagne said. "I knew the way I was feeling (Friday) that (Saturday) was going to be my first game back, so I'm pretty excited. I have some family coming in for Christmas, and my (6-month-old) son (Matthew) will be there. It's going to be fun to not be by myself when I go back in and play a game."
Gagne, who has a goal and four assists in nine games this season, last played Oct. 25 in a home loss to San Jose. He underwent a pair of surgeries to fix hernias in his groin not soon after.
"I was a little tight (on Thursday) but I felt good (Friday) and I did pretty much everything I would need to do in a game -- I pushed myself on the ice, battled one-on-one and did stop-and-go's," Gagne said.