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Gagne returns to Philly with Lightning

by Adam Kimelman
LIGHTNING (1-0-0) at FLYERS (2-0-1)


Season Series -- This is the first time these teams have met since March 2, when the Flyers' Mike Richards had a goal and 3 assists in the Flyers' 7-2 victory. Steven Stamkos scored twice for Tampa in that game. The last time the teams faced off in Philadelphia was Jan. 9, a 4-1 Flyers victory powered by a pair of Blair Betts goals.

Big Story -- Simon Gagne, who scored the season-saving overtime goal for the Flyers in Game 4 against Boston that sparked their historic second-round comeback, returns to Philadelphia after an offseason trade that ended his 10-season run with the team.

Team Scope:

Flyers -- Two of the biggest early stories for the team is the strong play of Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk.

Giroux has a pair of shorthanded goals, including the game-winner opening night in Pittsburgh, and has showcased his electric skating ability and hands. Van Riemsdyk, in his second NHL season, hasn't scored a goal yet, but he's been extremely active in the offensive zone and has been rewarded with more than 3 minutes of time on the power play the last two games.

On a team deep in forwards with scoring ability, van Riemsdyk's play has impressed coach Peter Laviolette.

"We have eight guys going for six spots," Laviolette told the Philadelphia Daily News. "It makes people push a little harder to keep their spot. If somebody is going five-on-five, looking at them and watching them play, you want to get them out on the power play. You look at a guy like (van Riemsdyk) and how he's playing right now, you want to get him out on the power play."

Lightning -- For an 11-year veteran, Simon Gagne certainly has had a lot of firsts this past week. Saturday was his first home game as a member of the Lightning. Wednesday was his first game back home in Montreal since his trade to the Lightning. And Thursday was his first game back in Philadelphia following this past summer's trade from the Flyers.

Gagne, a 1998 first-round pick of the Flyers, spent 10 seasons with the team, but was dealt to the Lightning in July to open salary-cap space. He ranks among the most popular Flyers players of recent vintage, and as much as the fans miss Gagne, the feeling is mutual.

"It'll be special," he told "It will mean a lot. I spent 11 years there and 11 years in one life is a lot. And it's not just the 11 years. I started my career there. I was a rookie there. When I left home for the first time I went to Philly. ... Going back there is going to be weird. It's going to be hard."
Who's Hot -- In four games against the Lightning last season, Flyers captain Mike Richards had 5 goals and 11 points, his best output against any team. … Lightning center Steven Stamkos already has 3 goals and 5 points after just two games.

Injury Report -- Flyers defenseman Matt Walker, acquired from the Lightning over the summer, is out with a groin injury that has been plaguing him since the preseason. Fourth-line center Blair Betts is nursing a sore left knee but likely will play. … Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund remains out for at least two more weeks with inflammation in his knee. He's been off the ice since Oct. 4. Nate Thompson played Wednesday despite sore groin muscles.

Stat Pack -- Ryan Malone's overtime goal Wednesday against the Canadiens snapped a 20-game goal drought dating to Jan. 21. He also had an assist, giving him his first multi-point game since Dec. 21, 2009, when he had 4 points -- including the game-winning goal -- against the New York Islanders.

Puck Drop -- If you're at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday and see a guy in a blue No. 12 jersey in the wrong place, don't worry -- it's just Gagne going on reflex. Can't blame him, after 10 seasons in the same locker room.

"I was laughing with the media today about how it's going to be tough to make sure I go to the left side and the locker room where we're supposed to be and not the Flyers locker room," said Gagne.

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