Gagne finally settling in with Lightning

Flyers' Scott Hartnell battles Lightning's Simon Gagne along boards during second period last night.
Flyers' Scott Hartnell battles Lightning's Simon Gagne along boards during second period last night.
Posted: February 02, 2011

TAMPA - More than 6 months after an agonizing 2-week stretch in July that ended Simon Gagne's prodigious 10-year run as a Flyer, he is no more comfortable talking about his exit now than he was then.

Gagne, who faced the Flyers last night for the second time since the July 19 trade, is finally starting to piece his career back together.

"It was hard on me," Gagne said. "I've started to get over it, so I don't know if it's a good thing to talk about it. It took a while. You stay in one place for 10 years, it's a big part of your life. But we've started to feel more comfortable here now."

And as Gagne and his family finally begin to get comfortable in Tampa Bay, where they have settled in a posh section of the city on Davis Island, his comfort on the ice has become apparent.

To look at Gagne's first season with the Southeast Division-leading Lightning - with his 15 total points in 34 games, including two assists in last night's shutout of the Flyers - as one whole part wouldn't be fair.

"To me, there's three parts of his year," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "The first part [was] when he tried to play injured without telling anybody. The second part was him trying to come back, so really he was behind everybody as far as being in shape. And then the Simon that we've seen in the last 10, 12 games, he's looking really good. I think right now he's one of our top players."

Gagne missed 18 games from Oct. 22 to Nov. 27 with a neck injury that required varying forms of treatment to discover its root. He scored the game-winning goal in his return on Nov. 30 in Toronto but added just five points in his next 15 games.

His last eight games have been a different story, picking up six of his nine goals in that span.

"When you miss the first part of the season, it's almost like last year," Gagne said. "I feel pretty good. The last month, the goals have started to go in. The team is playing well, too.

"I didn't know what type of team or season they would have here. That was really tough, a team that hadn't made the playoffs for 3 years. That was difficult to digest, leaving a contender for the Stanley Cup, like the Flyers, to come here. It's fun here. We've got a good team here."

Now, as Gagne eagerly awaits the birth of his second child in 2 weeks, he does so knowing that his game, his team and his family are in order.

"When it affects your family, it's tougher," Gagne said. "It was hard for her, very hard on the family more than myself. My wife [Karine] was in love with [Philly], our town in [South] Jersey, in love with all our doctors. We're in a good place now."

Carter's crew clicking

In the final two games before last weekend's All-Star break, Jeff Carter's line with Claude Giroux and Nik Zherdev was maybe the only line in the NHL that could supplant Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino as the hottest line in hockey.

And while Carter's crew racked up 11 points in the Flyers' last two wins, coach Peter Laviolette was quick to caution about their continued success. Not that he should, but Laviolette was clearly not ready to put them on the same level as Briere's line.

"That line was good for a couple games," Laviolette said. "I think 'G' [Giroux] and 'Cartsy' have a little chemistry going, and 'Z' [Zherdev] came in and he adds to that. It's early. They've been together for a few games. We'll continue down that road because they've been good."

Giroux seemed to agree, though the trio has a combined 57 goals and 53 assists this season.

"Lately we've been playing well," Giroux said. "But it was only two games. It's important not to get too excited. They're good players that can put the puck in the net pretty easily, so I'm just trying to get the puck to them."

The good news for the Flyers is that they don't need just one line scoring to win.

"We've got four good lines that can score," Giroux said with a smile. "I think we're pretty dangerous with that."

Quotable

"I think they're the best team in the league, they have no weaknesses whatsoever. When I look at their depth chart, it's pretty scary. Basically, they have three first lines. They have more depth than anybody. It's been a while since I've looked at a roster and felt that way."

- Lightning coach Guy Boucher talking about the Flyers before last night's game.

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