Briere 'felt great' in return against Isles
It’s not common to hear cheers in warm-ups.
Yet, that’s exactly what you heard during the pre-game skate between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders before their game on Tuesday night.
The rare occasion occurred with good reason.
As Daniel Briere took his first few strides on Well Fargo Center ice for the first time since January 19th (coincidentally also against the Islanders), the few hundred that regularly gather around the team’s end during warm-ups gave the returning forward a raucous applause.
However, the warm gesture was trumped by the ovation the winger received after the game began.
During a play stoppage, the team’s media staff directed their camera directly on Briere. As soon as his image came into frame, the 19,614 in attendance began wildly cheering with some even rising to their feet to welcome back one of their fallen captains.
The game was Briere’s first since sustaining a concussion against the New Jersey Devils on January 21 and missing a total of six games.
After having to deal with a setback last week, it appeared as though it was going to be a while before he was going to be able to return to action. Many projected that his return was going to come this upcoming weekend at the very earliest.
Considering how unpredictable concussions and their side-effects can be, it seemed like the Flyers and head coach Peter Laviolette would have liked to slowly ease the player back into the lineup.
Ultimately, it turned out not to be the case.
Briere played a total of 19:21 on Tuesday night, which is a full minute, more than his season average of 18:17.
Realistically, his ice time was given a boost as a result of playing 1:52 in the overtime period, but it still displays that the coaching staff felt he was well enough to play the extra time.
In addition, Briere was paired with Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn who are both arguably the hottest players on the entire team. It was evident the team was trying to put him in the best position to succeed.
While his return had a few dramatic twists, his play wasn’t too surprising.
In the first period he definitely appeared timid at times.
On his first offensive rush, he skated himself into a corner at the half wall and attempted a pass backwards that terribly missed the mark and forced the Flyers to regain the puck in their own zone and start the drive all over again.
He never really engaged in plays and at times looked confused as to what to do.
However, as the game wore on, Briere began to find his footing and began to look more comfortable.
By the final minute of the game, he finished a check near the top of the New York defensive zone to try and take an Islanders skater out of the play.
It wasn’t a huge deal in terms of strategy, but it did display that he wasn’t afraid of what would happen if he engaged in contact, which is a good sign in terms of his confidence.
"I felt great," Briere said after the game. "Now I can move on and really just concentrate on the game and not to have to think, in the back of my mind, if it's OK or not."
Briere’s return is the first step of many. As we have seen several times in the past, concussions are impossible to gauge.
With three games in the next five days, he is going to find out real quickly how he really feels.
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