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Flyers - Briere awaits Buffalo welcome

When Daniel Briere skates onto the ice tonight in front of his former home fans for the first time since leaving, he will have good memories.

When Daniel Briere skates onto the ice tonight in front of his former home fans for the first time since leaving, he will have good memories.

"It's going to be a little weird obviously," Briere said. "I'd been playing there for 4 or 5 years and they are a very conservative organization. There are only two players that weren't there last year.

"Most of the guys I've been playing with for a long time and when you win as a team you form close bonds, so there are still a lot of good friends on the other side."

It is no secret that Briere that the Sabres would have made an offer that would have kept him in Buffalo. It has been suggested that he would have taken 5 years and $25 million.

But that didn't happen. Not for Briere, or for Chris Drury, who left the Sabres for the New York Rangers. Briere would not talk about what took place in the days before he became a free agent and signed with the Flyers, other than to say he holds no grudges and he hopes the fans won't either.

"Some people might feel like we're traitors," he said. "I think this situation was a little different. But it's not my goal to blast the organization for the way they handled things.

"They have a right to walk away from players just like we have a right to decide where we want to go. What I remember from Buffalo is a good time and I had some good memories and that's all I'm hoping the fans can remember."

To be back in HSBC Arena for the first time since he shed his Buffalo jersey is no small thing to either Buffalo or Briere.

Briere made his name there and was a centerpiece to a team that won the Presidents' Trophy last season as the team that finished with the most points in the NHL.

The Sabres, a team built on speed and skill, could not handle the physical game that the Ottawa Senators threw at them in the Eastern Conference finals and they were eliminated short of what most in hockey felt was going to be a Stanley Cup final year for them.

It was known all along that they were going to have trouble signing their two big free agents, Briere and Drury, and they lost both.

"We won a lot of games," he said. "The sad part is that I didn't get the chance to finish the job there. But at the same time, it's funny because when I got to Buffalo I see a lot of resemblance to the team here, a team that is trying to come together. There's lots of talent, lots of upside and we're trying to come together as a team to have some successful years like we had the last 2 years in Buffalo."

In the beginning of the season, the Sabres struggled some trying to adjust but they come into this game with four straight wins, having defeated the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

The Flyers have lost their last four, one in a shootout, and just made a trade to bring in toughness on defense, swapping forward Ben Eager for Jim Vandermeer.

The Flyers, who at one point early on were second in the conference, are tied for seventh in the conference with Buffalo and Toronto with 35 points.

For goalie Martin Biron, this is not going to be the first game against the Sabres since being traded to the Flyers, but it will be his first time back in HSBC.

"It's going to be a little strange," he said. "I'm going to have to be careful not to go to the other crease. We'll have a bench-clearing brawl right from the beginning.

"But I think it's going to be fun. I'll be a little nervous at the start, but after that hopefully it's going to be all about the game." *