|ESPN.com: NHL||[Print without images]|
|Martin Biron (2-3-1 record, 3.95 GAA) and the Flyers have struggled out of the gate this season.|
What was significant about the short-handed goal, the Flyers' league-best fifth short-handed marker of the season, was that Simon Gagne scored it off a lovely feed from captain Mike Richards. Gagne appeared in just 25 games last season before recurring concussion problems sent him to the sideline for the balance of the campaign. Although he thought about trying to return for the playoff run, he told ESPN.com on Tuesday that it might have been the most important decision of his career not to make an early return, no matter how difficult it was to watch his teammates on their inspired playoff run. Gagne, the longest-serving member of the Flyers who was the 22nd overall pick in the 1998 draft, admitted he wasn't sure what to expect this season. "It was tough to imagine. There were a lot of questions in my mind before going back to play," he said. The thing about an injury like the one sustained by Gagne is that questions always will linger about whether he can ever return to the kind of production that saw him top the 40-goal mark twice. "Every year, you feel different," the Sainte-Foy, Quebec, native said. But this season? "I feel very close to the way I was," he said. Who's to argue? With two goals and two assists Tuesday, the former Canadian Olympian took over the team's goal-scoring lead with seven. He also has three assists. Stevens thinks Gagne has made a seamless transition back to elite-player status. "He's a world-class player," Stevens said. "He really stepped back into being an all-situations player." That's good news, given that the Flyers, already without defensemen Derian Hatcher, Ryan Parent and Randy Jones, also will soldier on without Daniel Briere, who is out for the next month or so with an abdominal muscle tear. "We're just getting contributions from everywhere," Knuble said. "When you're struggling, sometimes you're looking at one or two guys to carry the load, but we have guys playing in all different situations and succeeding, and the team does well." Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.