|Briere bears no grudge against Sabres in first trip back to Buffalo|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 December 2007 13:21|
After all, that was the motivational button Briere would push every time he felt someone slighted him for being too small to play in the NHL, or knocked the Sabres for being too inexperienced. And each time, the 5-foot-10 Briere and the speedy and high-octane Sabres would respond to the point where they reached the Eastern Conference finals in both of the past two seasons.
Briere, though, isn't biting this time in preparing to play his first game in Buffalo on Friday night as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 10-year NHL veteran bears no hard feelings despite the Sabres' decision to let him pursue free agency even though he was a team leader, fan favorite and had led Buffalo with 95 points last season.
``What's happened has happened and it's in the past now,'' Briere said by phone this week. ``It's not my goal to tarnish the image of the Sabres with what they decided to do. It was in their right. They did what they felt was best for the team. And you know what? I'm OK with that.''
Briere did land on his feet, signing an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Flyers on July 1, the first day of free agency.
``Heh, heh. Yeah, I can't complain,'' Briere said. ``I've been treated very well here.''
The sizable contract is what motivated him to focus not on the past, but the future and help turn around a Flyers team that finished with a league-low 22 wins last season.
It's a reason why Briere hasn't had time to consider what it'll feel like playing in the familiar confines of Buffalo's HSBC Arena.
``I'll deal with that when I get there,'' he said. ``I really don't know what to expect. I'm sure there's going to be some boos.''
The revamped Flyers (16-13-3) are off to a much better start this season. Their scoring is up - Philadelphia's 99 goals so far account for nearly half of the 213 they produced all last season. And their power play is clicking, converting 24 percent of its chances to rank third in the league.
Individually, Briere ranks 20th in the NHL with 35 points, is tied for 21st with 15 goals - including three game winners - and is second overall with 19 power-play points.
And yet, there's reason for concern as the Flyers play a two-game set against Buffalo, with the second game at Philadelphia on Saturday.
After a 6-1 start, the Flyers have gone 10-12-3, and are in the midst of a four-game winless streak (0-3-1), their longest of the season.
``For us, points are more important than this game is for me,'' Briere said. ``It's a special game because I'm coming back to Buffalo. But for us, we're trying to find a way to get back on the right track.''
The Sabres, by comparison, are headed in the other direction, slowly finding their identity after losing not only Briere, but also fellow co-captain Chris Drury, who signed with the New York Rangers last summer.
Buffalo has rebounded from a 6-10-1 start to win 11 of its past 15 games, including four straight. The Sabres are now tied for seventh with Philadelphia in the East standings.
The focus in Buffalo then becomes beating the Flyers, not facing Briere and goalie Martin Biron, another former Sabres player who was traded to Philadelphia last season.
``There no grudges. We were a close team and everybody got along,'' Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell said. ``I think if we win the game, we'll be happy with that.''
Briere still keeps in touch with numerous former teammates and also pays attention to how the Sabres are playing. Even though he spent only three-plus seasons in Buffalo, they proved to be his best after the Sabres acquired him in a trade with Phoenix.
``I watch them play and I still want them to do well,'' Briere said. ``There's a lot of good memories, a lot of good times. I'm just sad that we didn't get to finish what we had started.''