Daniel Briere is not a player who will complain when he's not happy about a situation.

He won't lie, but he would rather not answer a question than make a public statement that would reflect badly on his team or his coach. So while Simon Gagne was out of the lineup recovering from a concussion and Briere bounced from line to line, he kept his month shut about how much it bothered him.

But be sure of one thing: He didn't like it.

These days, or these past four games to be specific, Briere has been much happier, because Gagne is back on the ice with him.

In those four games, Briere has scored three goals and had two assists, while Gagne has scored two and two.

"We've had some chances," Briere said. "We're feeling more and more comfortable every game, it seems, since he's been back. And it's just going to get better and better.

"I'm excited that he's back, no doubt about it. You get a player like that back in your lineup, it's huge for the confidence of your team and for me personally to have a chance to play with someone like him. It just gives you the chance to create more.

"Teams are focusing not just on our line but on him, because you don't want him shooting the puck from dangerous areas. When that happens, it open spaces for me in the offensive zone."

For the Flyers, more offense is always a good thing. But a line that can suddenly play better defensively makes it all that much better. Gagne is one of the best two-way players in the game and that means more even strength goals and fewer against.

While Gagne was out, Briere's plus/minus ballooned to minus-12 at one point.

"When you don't score five-on-five your minuses are going to go up," he said. "Lately we've been on the ice for some goals against and we haven't responded.

"With [Gagne], what it means is teams will be a lot more careful playing against us . . . We'll have the puck a little bit more and having [Gagne] helps me on five-on-five play, just as it does on the power play."

John Stevens knew Briere's defense would improve with Gagne back.

"If you go back and look at some of those numbers, there are some things that I think [Briere] could do better defensively, but he's been a little bit of a victim there," Stevens said. "He's on the ice when our goalie is pulled, and also the fact that he's had a lot of chances that he hasn't capitalized on. I think you're going to see a lot more five-on-five production . . .

"I thought they were starting to develop some chemistry before Gagne got hurt. Danny is a great playmaker, but when you put another weapon on that line like Gagne, who is just a pure scorer, and you couple that with his defensive awareness, away from the puck,you're going to help anybody."

Snap shots

The subject of suspended Flyers has been a touchy one but even they got a laugh out of what ESPN did in the most recent edition of its magazine, which featured a series of cartoons about events and issues in the league this season.

One of the drawings was a police lineup with the five players who have been suspended, Steve Downie, Jesse Boulerice, Randy Jones, Scott Hartnell and Riley Cote, holding name plates with numbers in front of their chests.

"To see it brought up like that, it's pretty funny," said Hartnell.

"I'm glad to have it over with and what not, but when you see something like that you get a chuckle," added Jones, who liked the picture so much he's going to blow it up and frame it. "It's a good picture of me." . . . Martin Biron will be in net tonight, but John Stevens is keeping his plans to himself about what happens in Ottawa tomorrow.

"Right now I'm just thinking about [today]," Stevens said. *