TAMPA _ Tampa Bay winger Simon Gagne, one of the classiest players to ever play for the Flyers, has recovered from an early-season neck injury and is starting to resemble his old, fast self.
Gagne, 30, acquired last summer from the Flyers for Matt Walker and a fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft, missed 18 games from Oct. 21 to Nov. 30 and it took him a while to get back to form.
“To me there’s three parts of his year,” Tampa coach Guy Boucher said after his team’s morning skate on Tuesday. “The first part, where he tried to play injured (in training camp) 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 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, for sure.”
Entering Tuesday’s game against the Flyers, he had nine goals in 33 games and was minus-19. Gagne had six goals in his last eight games.
“The last month has been pretty good,” said Gagne, sporting a new, short haircut. “Goals are starting to go in. Even before then, I started to get a lot of chances and could see my game was coming. And the team's playing well, too. We’ve won five games in a row and we’re only four points behind them (the Flyers), so it’s fun.”
Gagne and his wife have settled into the Tampa area; they are living on the bay and are expecting their second child in a few weeks.
The Flyers and Lightning were seeded Nos. 1 and 2 in the East heading into Tuesday.
And, so, yes, Gagne has thought about the possibility of facing his old team in the playoffs.
"That," said Gagne, who is renting his Voorhees house to Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, "would be something special."
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Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will aim for his seventh straight win Tuesday, and winger James van Riemsdyk will return to the lineup after missing two games with a groin injury.
Jody Shelley and Oskars Bartulis are ill and not available.
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Boucher, the Tampa coach, called Tuesday’s game a "measuring stick" against the Flyers.
“Right now, I think they’re the best team in the league and have no weaknesses whatsoever,” he said. “When I look at their depth chart, it’s pretty scary. They have three No. 1 centermen, so basically they have three first lines. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at a roster and felt that way. They have more depth than anybody.”
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Goalie Dwayne Roloson will start Tuesday for Tampa. In 10 games with the Lightning, he has three shutouts, along with a 7-3 record, a 2.25 GAA and .922 save percentage.
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For constant updates, follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.
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