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Flyers forward Gagne eager to get into game action

Saturday's game at the Wachovia Spectrum will be special for a lot of people, and one of them is most likely to be Simon Gagne.

Saturday's game at the Wachovia Spectrum will be special for a lot of people, and one of them is most likely to be Simon Gagne.

The Flyers forward, who was forced to end last season with concussion and neck injuries, has been practicing full out since before the start of training camp but was not scheduled to play in the preseason before Saturday.

Gagne said Tuesday that he needed the extra time but would like to play Saturday against Carolina.

"It's been a long time since I've played hockey and I need the extra practice," Gagne said. "I feel good but it's going to take a while to get back to where I was."

Coach John Stevens understands and is taking a patient approach with Gagne.

"He looks like he's getting sharper every day, but just like the other guys we want to give him a few more days on the ice before we stick him in a game," Stevens said. "I haven't quite decided yet. But pretty soon we're going to get him going."

Defensive possibilities

Flyers defensive prospect Mike Ratchuk will start the season with the Phantoms, but the former Michigan State standout from Buffalo has caught the eye of general manager Paul Holmgren for his offensive moves.

"He's an exciting guy to watch," Holmgren said. "He needs to learn to manage his risks, but offensively he tries things [most players] won't even bother trying. He needs work but there's lots to work with."

So where does all this offense come from? He played forward growing up and switched to defense in his teens.

It's will be interesting to see what happens on defense with all the new players: Steve Eminger, Ossi Vaananen, Bryan Berard, who is in for a tryout, and Ryan Parent, who is still developing but was called up late last season and stayed.

Goalie Marty Biron is keeping a close eye on things.

"I'm excited to see what the new guys can do, especially on defense; their mobility and all of that everybody has been talking about it," Biron said.

"Looking at their track record, they're all great skaters, great puck-handlers, great hockey players and that's what you want."

Snap shots

The Flyers returned forward Zac Rinaldo, defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon and goaltender Jacob DeSerres to their Canadian Hockey League teams, according to Paul Holmgren.

Rinaldo, the Flyers' sixth-round pick in this year's draft, was returned to the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, of the Ontario Hockey League.

Bourdon, a third-round '08 pick, was returned to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

DeSerres, also a third-round pick, was returned to the Seattle Thunderbirds, of the Western Hockey League. *

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