Flyers' Briere has relocated his scoring touch

Danny Briere has a chance to snap his high in goals for a season.
Danny Briere has a chance to snap his high in goals for a season.
Posted: March 19, 2011

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas - Just after returning from the NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C., in January - undoubtedly one of the highlights of his career - Danny Briere went into a serious slump.

Briere posted 26 goals and 19 assists in his first 47 games, prior to Jan. 30.

In his first 15 games after the All-Star festivities, which he enjoyed with his sons Caelan, Carson and Cameron by his side, Briere mustered just two goals and four assists.

He was so frustrated that he went back and looked at video to compare his play to the beginning of the season. And he didn't like what he saw.

"You always go through tougher stretches in a season,'' Briere said. "You think you're working the right way, but you start watching tape and realize that the little things that you were doing before have turned into bad habits. That's where I was with my game.

"I had to change a few things and get back to what I was doing.''

The difference in the last five games - in which he has posted three goals and five assists - is remarkable.

"He's played really well,'' coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think he's picked it up the last couple games. For me, it's his speed, his pace and his intensity. He's been really strong with his skating.

"He's proven to be a playoff player during his career. He's ratcheted it up as the playoffs get closer. It's good to see that.''

Briere, 33, broke the 30-goal plateau for the fourth time in his career on Thursday night in Atlanta with his two-goal effort. It was the first time he's done that since 2007-08.

Briere admits that he would like to top his career-high for goals in a season (32, which he has matched once) because he is "getting older now,'' he said with a smile. He has 12 games left to score two goals and break it.

Briere is much more concerned, though, with the Flyers' righting their rocky ship even though he's already fixed his.

"We're all just trying to get back to the hockey we were playing earlier in the season,'' Briere said. "The thing is, you can't control what the other guys are doing. You have to control yourself and focus on your play. It all starts individually and you have to look at yourself.''

Lineup shakeup

Don't be surprised to see Andreas Nodl, who has sat out the last five games as a healthy scratch, return to the lineup tonight against Dallas. Nodl skated on a line with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux in practice yesterday.

As usual, Laviolette refused to discuss the Flyers' lineup. But it's been an excruciating wait for Nodl, who has collected 10 goals and 10 assists in 56 games.

"It sucks,'' Nodl said. "Obviously, you want to play. It's weird looking down and seeing your teammates compete and you can't do anything to help them. But we're a good team, we have a lot of forwards and they deserve to play, too. I've just got to keep positive.''

Laviolette reunited Briere with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino. Even though Nik Zherdev floated through that line in practice, he still figures to be a healthy scratch. Mike Richards skated with Kris Versteeg and James van Riemsdyk, while Dan Carcillo was moved to a line with Darroll Powe and Blair Betts. One of Carcillo or Jody Shelley is expected to be the other healthy scratch at forward.

Scoreboard watching

The idle Flyers undoubtedly were checking the scores around the NHL on their phones last night in Dallas, as they awaited word about their playoff status.

Last night, the Flyers could clinch a playoff berth without even leaving their hotel rooms in the Dallas area. They needed a New York Islanders win in regulation over Carolina and a Devils loss of any kind or a win in overtime/shootout.

The Devils lost to Washington, 3-0, but the Hurricanes defeated the Islanders in overtime.

"Obviously, you look at the score every night and that those teams lose,'' Giroux said after practice. "But we'll just have to wait and see.''

So now, the Flyers can punch their own ticket tonight against Dallas. For the Flyers, clinching their 35th playoff berth in 43 seasons a full 3 weeks earlier than last season will be a relief. But it's far from their goal.

"We're still in control of our own destiny, which is nice,'' Briere said. "For us, it's about finishing first in the Eastern Conference and setting ourselves up nicely for the playoffs and having home-ice advantage.''

As a result of Washington's win, the Flyers and Capitals are tied atop the Eastern Conference with 94 points, but the Flyers have three games in hand.

Slap shots

Briere and Giroux are riding five-game point streaks . . . The Flyers are just 2-5-3 in Dallas since the Stars moved there from Minnesota in 1994. It's their worst road record in any one city in franchise history . . . The Flyers confirmed yesterday that Richards recently joined Twitter. His user name is @MRichie18.

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

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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