-- Simon Gagne
, the longest-tenured player for the Philadelphia Flyers
, was a welcome sight at the Wachovia Center to those who braved the wintry conditions on Saturday.
Gagne, who had missed the previous 24 games after undergoing surgery to repair tears in his abdominal wall and a small hernia, admitted no serious lingering effects after earning 20:16 of ice time in his team's 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers
For Gagne, watching the team he has spent his entire 10-season career with struggle over the last month-and-a-half has been excruciating. Following a 3-2 victory in Los Angeles on Nov. 18, the Flyers stood fifth in the Eastern Conference at 12-5-1. Since then, the team has gone 4-12-1 while tumbling to 15th in conference.
Gagne feels the problems are certainly fixable.
"We're going through a tough stretch right now, that's for sure," Gagne said. "We have a new coach (Peter Laviolette
) who's trying to put in a new system for the team. It's going to take time for us to learn that and I'm sure we're not we're we want to be right now. We're out of the playoffs and that's not where the Flyers want to be. As players, we're very disappointed and we're going to try everything we can to turn this around."
Gagne feels the high-energy approach that Laviolette is committed to has been an adjustment for the players. But, it's just a matter of time before everyone is on the same page.
"You just have to be used to play that way," Gagne said. "The last three years with (former coach) Johnny (Stevens), we played a different system; skating was involved but maybe not like Peter asks us right now.
"We're going through a tough stretch right now, that's for sure. We have a new coach (Peter Laviolette) who's trying to put in a new system for the team. It's going to take time for us to learn that and I'm sure we're not we're we want to be right now. We're out of the playoffs and that's not where the Flyers want to be. As players, we're very disappointed and we're going to try everything we can to turn this around."
-- Simon Gagne
"Guys need to get used to it," he added. "I don't know if there are guys out of shape -- I don't think so. Everyone came into training camp in great condition and I don't think it's a problem. You just need to get used to doing it every shift and every game. Sometimes, that takes a lot of energy away from you and guys aren't used to it. But you're starting to see guys playing a lot better right now."
As a bystander, Gagne saw his team play one of its best games under Laviolette on Thursday in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins
. Not only did the Flyer outshoot the Penguins, 33-30, but center Jeff Carter
scored his first goal in five games. The Flyers also outshot the Rangers, 37-24, on Saturday. Gagne was pretty active, too, chipping in with an assist and finishing with two shots in the setback.
"I like the way the team has played," Gagne said. "You start to see some flashes of what Peter is trying to bring here. I feel we'll soon grasp what he's trying to bring 100 percent and then you'll see a better team on the ice."
In addition to helping snap his team out of its offensive doldrums to late, Gagne is also hoping to quickly get up to speed, literally.
"I did pretty much everything I had to do to get back to health," Gagne said. "We all know, until you play a game, it's hard to know. The best way to get back into shape is play hockey and that's what I'm going to do now. I don't know if it's going to take 1-2 games or 2-3 weeks, but I'm going to do my best. At the same time, I just want to keep it simple."
Contact Mike Morreale at: firstname.lastname@example.org.