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Flyers playing for Stevens' job; Briere, Gagne progressing

What's my take on John Stevens' future as the Flyers' coach?

The Flyers, who have lost five of their last six, are playing for his job.

Either they step up, or the gentlemanly Stevens might be asked to step down.

Yes, injuries have played a role in the club's mediocre first two months. But the Flyers' brass has not been thrilled with the team's inconsistent nature _ a trait that started before the injuries piled up.

Stevens is a classy man who is one of the NHL's most dedicated coaches, but if the Flyers (13-10-1) are around .500 a month from now,  I don't think he will still be here.

Asked to evaluate Stevens' job this season, GM Paul Holmgren, who is a staunch supporter of his coach, didn't exactly give a ringing endorsement Sunday.

"We're ninth in the conference and I'd like to be in a better position," he said, "but the coaches are working hard."
     He paused.
    "But it goes back to what I was saying about the players. The results need to be more positive."
     If they're not, if this team doesn't show marked improvement in the next month, you'll probably see a new man behind the bench.

After all, the Flyers didn't make the mega-deal for Chris Pronger just so they could fight for a playoff spot.

They did it to become one of the NHL's elite.

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The Flyers received some good medical news Sunday: Danny Briere, who missed Saturday's 1-0 loss in Atlanta with the flu, was feeling better and should be close to 100 percent for Thursday's contest against visiting Vancouver.

In addition, Simon Gagne _ sidelined after undergoing abdominal and hernia surgery _ is slightly ahead of schedule and will skate with his teammates at practice Monday. The plan is for Gagne to avoid contact until next week. Best-case scenario: He returns to action in three weeks.

Darroll Powe and Blair Betts, each of whom are out with shoulder injuries, are on schedule to return in early January.