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Just when it looked like the Philadelphia Flyers were emerging from their swoon, yet another one of the team's key players is injured.

After losing while playing without star center Daniel Briere for the first time this season, the Flyers hope to bounce back as they host the Eastern Conference-worst Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

Briere suffered a sprained right shoulder in a shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday, then sat out his first game of the season as Philadelphia (33-26-8) lost 5-2 against Buffalo on Tuesday night.

Daniel Briere (top) missed his first game of the season Tuesday night with a right shoulder sprain. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Briere, the team's second-leading scorer with 57 points in 66 games, isn't sure when he'll return. He said Tuesday that the injury wasn't too serious, and that he isn't scheduled for any tests on his shoulder.

"Right now, I don't know how long it's going to be," said Briere, who signed an eight-year, $52 million contract last summer. "I'm hoping it's short and I can get back in there and help the team again."

The injury is a major blow to a team that is also missing All-Star Mike Richards and two-time 40-goal scorer Simon Gagne. Richards, leading the team with 66 points, is expected to miss at least another week with a torn left hamstring, while Gagne appears to be done for the season because of lingering effects from the three concussions he's suffered this season.

The loss of Briere is also disappointing because of the way he had helped the Flyers rebound from a dismal stretch in February. Philadelphia went 0-8-2 from Feb. 6-23, but was 3-0-1 in Briere's last four games.

"I feel disappointed because the last four, five, six games, things were starting to turn around," said Briere, who helped snap the Flyers' 10-game losing streak by scoring the game-winning shootout goal in Philadelphia's 4-3 victory over the Sabres on Feb. 25.

"The last three games, I liked the way our line was playing. Chemistry was just starting to set in with (recent acquisition) Vinny Prospal. It's been a good complement to our line."

The Flyers and the Sabres were tied entering the third period Tuesday, but Buffalo took control of the game with two goals in an 18-second stretch early in the period.

"We know we can play a lot better," goaltender Martin Biron said.

Mike Smith has been solid in goal despite limited offensive support. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Philadelphia will try to bounce back against Tampa Bay (26-33-7), which has gone 1-6-1 in its last eight games to fall further out of contention in the East.

On Tuesday night, the Lightning got a solid performance from goaltender Mike Smith, who stopped 21 shots and held Pittsburgh to one goal. Tampa Bay, however, fell 2-0 in getting shut out for the second time in six games.

Smith, who's 1-3-0 with a 2.76 goals-against average in four games since Tampa Bay acquired him from Dallas, won his only career start against Philadelphia last March 13.

Biron, meanwhile, is 7-5-0 with two ties and a 2.55 GAA in 14 career games against Tampa Bay.

The Lightning beat Biron and the Flyers 5-3 on Feb. 14 in Tampa Bay's last game before its 1-6-1 stretch. The Lightning are 13-2-0 against the Flyers since the beginning of 2003-04, including a 2-1-0 mark this season.

Prospal is facing the Lightning for the first time since they traded him to Philadelphia on Feb. 25. He had 29 goals and 28 assists in 62 games for Tampa Bay this season.

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