Flyers' Danny Briere credits linemates Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino for his success this season

Forward Danny Briere has a team-high 21 goals. "It's been a while since I've had more goals than assists," he says.
Forward Danny Briere has a team-high 21 goals. "It's been a while since I've had more goals than assists," he says.
Posted: January 11, 2011

At 33, Danny Briere is having a career season, one that is expected to land him a spot when the league's hockey operations committee names the rest of its all-star players on Tuesday.

But the Flyers' shifty center says his success - he has a team-high 21 goals and is on pace for 42 - has more to do with his linemates than it does his 13 years of experience.

The havoc created by Scott Hartnell in front of the goalie, and the unselfish play of Ville Leino, Briere said, is why he is on target to surpass his previous best, 32 goals for Phoenix (2001-02) and Buffalo (2006-07).

"I think playing with Ville and Scotty certainly helps a lot," he said after Monday's practice in Voorhees. "And for the first time in my career, my role is a little different. When I was with Buffalo, playing with [Jason] Pominville and J.P. Dumont, I was more of a passer and those guys were the shooters."

Now, Briere is the gunner.

"Ville's a playmaker, and he gives me the chance to open up," Briere said. "And a guy like Hartnell is always around the net," helping create scoring opportunities for him.

Added Briere: "I think because of those two, my game has changed. It's been a while since I've had more goals than assists. I wish I could help out a little more in the assist department, but when you play with a player [Leino] who likes to make plays, you give him the puck and try to get open."

In his first full season with the Flyers, Leino has 20 assists, tied for second on the team.

Leino and Briere have had a connection ever since coach Peter Laviolette put them together in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs.

"Danny's a natural goal scorer," Leino said. "Almost every time I pass to him and he has a good chance to score, he does. He's fun to play with."

Briere, who has 12 assists to go with 21 goals, will return to Buffalo on Tuesday for a matchup against the Sabres (18-18-5). Even though he hasn't played for Buffalo since 2006-07, Briere says it's "always going to be a little special going back. Obviously, I had some good memories there. Good things happened and we had exciting teams."

Fans already have named six all-stars, and the NHL will announce 36 others on Tuesday. Briere, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux and Kimmo Timonen are the Flyers' top candidates.

Chris Pronger seemed like an all-star shoo-in before he suffered a broken foot last month. The Flyers defenseman may not be ready for the All-Star Game, which will be played Jan. 30 in Raleigh, N.C., with Laviolette serving as one team's co-coach.

Briere doesn't think of himself as an all-star lock - even though he entered Monday tied for sixth in the NHL in goals and tied for eighth in the plus-minus ratings (plus-17).

"If I was on any other team, I'd have a good shot," he said. "But with this team, with so many guys having good years, it makes it difficult. Obviously, we're not going to send five or six guys."

Briere added that he was "just proud to have a good year. If I make it, great, it'd be quite an honor. If not, then I'll enjoy the time with my family."

Winning, Briere said, had made this one of the most enjoyable seasons. The Flyers (26-10-5) have their second-best record at the midway point in the last 25 years.

"Everybody comes here happy, excited to be at the rink," he said. "It's made a big difference. It makes it a lot more fun to play the game."

Breakaways. Timonen said it would be nice to make his fifth all-star team, but he wouldn't mind having four days off to recover from some nagging injuries. . . . Pronger will be examined by a doctor Wednesday, and there's a chance he will join the team for workouts in Boston later that day. . . . Matt Walker, rehabbing after two hip surgeries, participated in practice and may soon go on a conditioning stint with Adirondack. . . . Tuesday's game will be televised nationally by Versus. The radio broadcast will be on WPHT-AM (1210) instead of WIP-AM (610).


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.

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