Sometime after the end of last season, after the Ducks had hoisted Lord Stanley's hardware, the Flyers braintrust sat down and tried to come up with a slogan to re-energize the hockey faithful of the Delaware Valley.
Paul Holmgren and Peter Luukko had just pulled off one of the most tremendous off-season rebuilding jobs of any team in recent Philadelphia sports history. The Flyers had finished with the league's worst record and were itching to get back on the ice and restore the proud tradition of hockey in Philadelphia.
They chose the moniker which adorns the side of the Bank Building - "Back With A Vengeance"
Fast forward to the 2007 season.
Flyers shot out of the gate and won six of their first seven. Simon Gagne and free agent prize, Danny Briere looked like they had been playing together for years. Marty Biron looked to be everything the Flyers had hoped when they stole him from Buffalo and every move and line change made by head coach John Stevens turned to gold.
The Flyers had just completed a four game sweep of their first homstand of the season and now they were taking their winning act back on the road with a first stop in South Florida. The Panthers had started off a dismal three wins and six losses.
The Panthers hit them like a ton of bricks...literally.
Olli Jokinen and Greg Campbell scored two goal apiece, Marty Biron fought the puck all night long and Simon Gagne's head found the business end of a Jay Bouwmeester elbow. The Flyers and Gagne felt that it would, hopefully, not be that big a deal and that he would be back to game action soon. They were both wrong.
The Flyers danced around a diagnosis but grudgingly admitted what the Philadelphia faithful already knew, that their star winger, indeed, had the "C" word. A word that strikes fear into the hearts of all Flyers fans. A word that and conjures up long-vanished specters of an open-ice Stevens hit on #88...concussion. Now Simon Gagne had one.
26 long and frustrating games later, #12 would return to the lineup and score a very Gagne-esque powerplay goal against the New York Rangers to celebrate his on-ice reunion. Gagne would pick up assists in the next two games and show flashes of the chemistry that he and linemate Danny Briere enjoyed before his concussion. Now the Panthers come North to return the favor and Simon Gagne is out to prove that he is, indeed, back.
If the Flyers hope to come out of this contest with a victory, they will have to do something that they could not when they visited Sunrise - stop their Finnish Captain, Olli Jokinen. I have stated, and firmly believe, that if Jokinen were in New York, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto or Boston that he would be a household name to hockey fans. The fact that this #3 pick in the 1997 draft plays in a state where the coldest weather they typically see might damage the orange crop, doesn't help. Jokinen is their leading scorer with 43 points (22g, 21a) and is, by far, their most dangerous player. Fourth year player, Nathan Horton, is their next highest scorer with 32 points. Currently, the Panthers are on the outside looking in at the playoffs in 12th place with 44 points. The Flyers hope to keep their noses pressed to the glass with their 24th win tomorrow night.
Simon Gagne might not have himself back into playing shape yet, but one thing is for sure...he should not have to look far for a source of motivation against the team that put him out of the lineup for more than two and a half months. I expect #12 to score at least one goal tomorrow night and play with a Vengeance...
Thanks for reading...
Here Kitty, Kitty....