All Briere's line needs is a nickname

Briere
Briere
Posted: January 13, 2011

BUFFALO - Quietly overlooked among the chatter of the Flyers tying Detroit on Tuesday night for the most double-digit goal scorers in the NHL is the fact that one line has carried them the past 2 weeks.

Yes, as they continue to lead the Eastern Conference, depth is the Flyers' biggest asset. They can attack the opposition in waves, including their fourth line.

But since the Flyers were shut out on Dec. 20 at home against the Florida Panthers, no team has been able to slow the trio of Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino - a line that could desperately use a catchy nickname.

Briere's line, easily the Flyers' best combination since the "Legion of Doom," with Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg, that skated from 1995-97, has accounted for 13 of the Flyers' last 20 goals. When Leino scored in the 5-2 win at Buffalo on Tuesday, it gave the Flyers eight double-figure scorers.

It's no coincidence that the Flyers have won five of six games heading into tonight's matchup in Boston.

"Maybe this is our time," Hartnell said after Tuesday's victory. "You know, I think every line or every person is streaky at times. Maybe this is our time to feel it around the net. Other times, we're not getting the breaks. It's fun right now."

While their individual stats in the last six games are untouchable - Briere's line has combined for a total of 22 points since Dec. 30 - they have been able to mask some less-than-flattering streaks.

Perhaps opponents are keying on one of the other top lines, like Jeff Carter with Claude Giroux and Darroll Powe, which has opened up more space for Briere's line.

Since that same Dec. 30 game in Los Angeles, Carter's line has combined for just one goal. Claude Giroux, the Flyers' lone All-Star representative, has quietly gone the last nine games without a goal - more than doubling his longest scoring drought of the season.

"Maybe they will focus on that line," coach Peter Laviolette said on Tuesday. "Somebody is going to draw the top checking line, you've got to fight through it. Somebody is going to draw the top pair of defensemen, you've got to fight through it. And the other guys have to try and capitalize.

"We seem to get contributions from everybody and we need to continue to do that."

Giroux said on Monday that he believes his line is getting enough chances but hasn't been able to bury a goal.

"We've been playing pretty well," Giroux said. "We've had a couple ups and downs during the season, but that's pretty normal. We need to keep playing the way we are and working as a team. It's been a pretty good season so far."

If a long, 82-game season really does go in streaks, as Hartnell said, that means a breakthrough for Carter's line is inevitable. On such a deep team, with a possible nine players topping out at 20 goals by the time it all ends in April, an opponent can only hold one leak down so long before another one bursts open.

"I would agree that depth is our strength," Laviolette said on a conference call yesterday. "I think you need a mix of players, but we certainly have a lot of talented players. I think it brings out a good balance on the lines . . . and we play a style that is conducive to generating offense. I think when you have that depth, you become more difficult to defend."

Pronger cleared

Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger was cleared to return to practice after his surgically repaired right foot was evaluated by Dr. Steven Raikin in Philadelphia yesterday.

"Chris Pronger was given the go-ahead to move his rehabilitation to the next level," general manager Paul Holmgren said.

Pronger will meet the Flyers in Atlanta tomorrow for practice.

Pronger has missed the last nine games since blocking a shot with his foot against Montreal on Dec. 15. The Flyers have gone 6-3-0 without him.

Pronger's target for return - after resuming light skating by himself last week - remains next Tuesday's clash with Washington at the Wells Fargo Center.

Pronger, yesterday, was asked if he was excited to return to practice.

"I am. I'm excited to get back in the mix at practice and obviously excited to try to get back in the lineup," Pronger said. "But again, I've got to make sure everything's good with my foot before we even go down that avenue."

Pronger was asked how he thought the Flyers performed in his our absence?

"I think we've played pretty well," he said. "You look at our record, we're still atop the Eastern Conference, and a couple points back of the league lead. We've beaten some pretty good teams in that stretch. So I think we've fared pretty well."

Slap shots

The Flyers' charter flight late Tuesday night barely beat the snow to Boston. Their plane was one of just seven to land at Boston's busy Logan Airport in a 12-hour window yesterday, with almost a foot of snow being dumped on the region. Peter Laviolette canceled practice scheduled at Boston University and the team instead worked out at their hotel's gym . . . In honor of Martin Luther King Day, Flyers forward Darroll Powe will hold a special on-ice clinic for members of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation at Laura Simms Skatehouse on Monday afternoon in Cobbs Creek Park.

Quotable

"I think they bring out the best in us and we bring out the best in them. Over time, too, especially recently, things kind of spill over from one game to the next. You see certain teams on the schedule and you're ready to play."

- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, on his team's rivalry with the Bruins, whom they face tonight at TD Garden. *

For more news and analysis, read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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