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Briere still cherishes his time in Buffalo

Sunday, 04.17.2011 / 9:14 PM ET / News
By Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com
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Briere still cherishes his time in Buffalo
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Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 2
SOG: 11 | +/-: -1

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers center Danny Briere has nothing but fond memories of his playing days in Buffalo. It's the city where his career was rescued his career and the franchise that helped turn him from a twice-waived potential journeyman into an NHL All-Star.

Don't think, however, he doesn't want to win there in the worst way possible.

Briere arrives in Buffalo for Game 3 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series having played more than a few games at HSBC Arena in four seasons since leaving the Sabres for the Flyers as a free agent in July 2007. This game, however, will be his first playoff game in the building he called home for four seasons.

"It's been a few years so it's a little different than if it were the first year after I left," Briere told reporters recently.  "It's been quite some time now so it's probably not as crazy, but there's still a little something there. It's going to be special, there's no doubt about it. I'll be facing a lot of friends, but for a couple weeks there we'll have to leave that behind us. I'm definitely excited."

He'll have even more juice after scoring the game-winning goal Saturday in the Flyers' 5-4 Game 2 victory that evened the series.

Briere spent most of four seasons with the Sabres, who acquired him from the Coyotes on March 10, 2003, in exchange for Chris Gratton. In 225 games, he had 92 goals and 230 points, and helped the Sabres reach the Eastern Conference Finals in 2005 and 2006.

Those two seasons especially stick out for Briere, because they were the culmination of a group growing together and -- at least in that first season -- defying expectations.

"Take the first season after the lockout (2005-06); that season is always going to be special," Briere told NHL.com. "Everyone picked us to finish in the bottom two or three in the conference and we finished fourth and made the run to the conference final against Carolina. We kind of surprised the hockey world. People started giving us more respect."

The Sabres surprised no one the following season, finishing with 113 points and winning the Presidents' Trophy. They got back to the conference finals, but this time lost to the Ottawa Senators.

"The following year … that was a fabulous year, too," Briere said. "You win the Presidents' Trophy, that's a pretty big deal. That was special. Those two years were something special."

Briere had a team-leading 95 points that season, 10th in the League and a career best. After that season, however, he became an unrestricted free agent, and as he simply said, "(Buffalo) couldn't afford me."

He signed an eight-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, but not before a lot of deliberation.

"It was tough to leave because we were a tight group," Briere said. "When you win with certain teammates, you create tight friendships. I thought we were (close). It's too bad they dismantled that team. At the same time, it worked out great for me personally having the chance to come to Philadelphia."

Briere said his fond memories of the team and the club make this series far different than any previous one he's played in. It's harder in a way to battle this way with friends -- and he's got more than a few on that team -- but it's also a fun challenge.

"It's a little bit of both," he said. "It puts more pressure … but at the same time that's what we play for. We play because we want to be the difference maker. Most of us like the pressure, that's why we play hockey, that's why we're competitive. I think it's a little bit of both."

The fun part, though, came to an end in the days before Game 1. Goalie Ryan Miller talked about looking forward to stopping Briere because of the way Briere left Buffalo."We haven't talked and we won't speak," added Jason Pominville, another friend and former teammate. "The last game we played at home (April 8), we kind of shook each other's hands and said this might be the last time we talk to each other in a little while without knowing we were going to play them."

Briere takes all the little chirps in stride.

"I just got the quote today that Ryan Miller said it's a little bit of a payback because I left them," said Briere. "So that's a way I guess for him … Ryan is smart enough to know exactly what happened. But those are little jabs like that to get things going. Me and Pominville said we'll talk to each other in a couple of weeks. Whoever the loser is will probably want to wait an extra two weeks."

Pominville said he wasn't sure what kind of reaction Briere would get from Buffalo fans Saturday, but said, "I'm sure probably not the best reaction (but) I don't think it will bother him. Might help him. … I don't think it'll bother him that much. He might thrive off it, if anything."

He's certainly responded well in the six games he's played at HSBC the last four seasons, scoring 4 goals and adding 4 assists -- including 2 goals and 4 assists in two games there this season.

However, Briere isn't concerned with how he's received; he just wants to focus on winning.

"I think there's a little more on the table for me personally," said Briere. "Motivation obviously is easy to find because I played there for so long, I know a lot of the guys. I have lots of friends there on that team and around town."

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Voracek 82 22 59 1 81
C. Giroux 81 25 48 -3 73
M. Streit 81 9 43 -8 52
W. Simmonds 75 28 22 -5 50
B. Schenn 82 18 29 -5 47
S. Couturier 82 15 22 4 37
M. Del Zotto 64 10 22 -5 32
M. Read 80 8 22 -4 30
M. Raffl 67 21 7 6 28
V. Lecavalier 57 8 12 -7 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 18 18 11 .928 2.25
R. Emery 10 11 7 .894 3.06
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