Flyers open camp thinking playoffs

SUN WIRE SERVICES

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Playing in an intrasquad game on the same line as Simon Gagne, Daniel Briere gave the Flyers fans that filled the practice rink in Voorhees, N.J., on the opening day of camp a sneak peek of how well the two former all-stars are expected to mesh.

"I think they'll try to fast-track the chemistry," second-year coach John Stevens said. "It's a pairing we'll take a long look at. There's no reason they can't have a lot of success together."

Success. Something the Flyers took for granted for most of their first 40 years.

A couple of Stanley Cups, a steady string of playoff appearances and one of most loyal fan bases in the NHL made hockey more than a fringe sport in Philadelphia.

Then came last season -- the worst in franchise history. The Flyers (22-48-12) were the worst team in the league, missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994, and set team records for most losses and fewest points (56).

TALKING PLAYOFFS

Five months later, the Flyers are talking playoffs.

The reason for the renewed optimism comes after a summer of shrewd moves by GM Paul Holmgren that has the Flyers believing they can move back into the post-season.

Holmgren started at the trade deadline when he jettisoned Peter Forsberg and acquired key pieces like G Martin Biron and F Scottie Upshall.

Then Holmgren traded for Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul in the summer.

The lynchpin of all the moves was signing Sabres co-captain Briere to a $52-million US, eight-year contract.

"We all believe that we have a team that right away can be a very good team," Briere said.

SELANNE STILL UNDECIDED

The Finnish Flash is still not sure if he is finished.

"Part of me wants to play, but right now, a part of me is not ready to do what it takes," star W Teemu Selanne said yesterday.

"I'm just going to wait a little longer and see how I'm going to feel when the season starts.

Selanne led Anaheim with 48 goals and 94 points last season, and added five goals and 10 assists in the playoffs as the Ducks won their first Stanley Cup, which was also the first for Selanne in his 15-year career.

STAAL MOVES TO CENTRE

Penguins coach Michel Therrien had second-year F Jordan Staal, a centre throughout his amateur career who often played on the wing last season, back at his preferred position.

Staal was at centre on the No. 3 line with Ryan Malone at left wing and Colby Armstrong at right wing.

The top line had NHL scoring champion Sidney Crosby between Mark Recchi and Petr Sykora, while NHL rookie of the year Evgeni Malkin was between Gary Roberts and Erik Christensen -- another centre on a team loaded with them.


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