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With three goals in three games, Flyers' Gagne off to healthy start

DENVER - He has three goals in his first three games. He is not shy about contact and doesn't appear to be holding anything back. In fact, in his first shift in his first game since missing 57 games last season recovering from concussion symptoms and neck pain, Simon Gagne was called for a roughing penalty.

DENVER - He has three goals in his first three games.

He is not shy about contact and doesn't appear to be holding anything back. In fact, in his first shift in his first game since missing 57 games last season recovering from concussion symptoms and neck pain, Simon Gagne was called for a roughing penalty.

Still, the Flyers' star left winger does not yet feel completely up to speed.

"I feel OK," he said after Tuesday night's 3-2 overtime loss in Pittsburgh. "It's three goals in three games but there is a lot of place for improvement right now.

"I'm getting there but I'm at that point where it will take time. I'm getting the shots, the pucks are going in and I'm in the right place at the right moment but I'm still feeling there is a lot left before I am the Simon Gagne I was 2 years ago."

That Gagne had just finished his second consecutive 40-plus-goal season. He was strong and dominant and feeling good. The Flyers were awful that season, but he had hopes for the coming year.

General manager Paul Holmgren remade the team and Gagne was a big part of it. Instead, he was hit by defenseman Jay Bouwmeester in Florida last Oct. 24, suffered a concussion and never really recovered.

After trying twice to come back, he was forced to give up the season the night after being bumped again in a game in Pittsburgh. Gagne, 28, spent the spring and summer getting treatment and rehabbing and when camp opened, he was fit and ready to play.

But he has always acknowledged that it will take weeks of regular-season hockey before he is himself again.

Still, if this is only part of what he can be, Gagne is the best addition the Flyers could have made this season. Playing on a line with Mike Richards and Danny Briere, Gagne is getting things done.

It helps to have Richards as his centerman. The new captain is usually first into the corners and he and Briere draw a lot of attention from defenders, the kind of attention Gagne used to attract all on his own.

And so he plays and waits to feel like himself.

"My timing is starting to be very good," he said. "But it's more of a physical thing. If I can get the game-shape back, I'll feel better.

"I used to be a player that took five to 10 games to get the legs going, to get my game going and for me, it's plus-8 months since I had that. So it's going to take longer."

Snap shots

Tonight's Flyers-Avalanche game will be the first Comcast SportsNet regular-season road game to be broadcast in high definition. All games this season are available in HD.

The Flyers announced yesterday that they have entered into an affiliate agreement with the Mississippi Sea Wolves, of the East Coast Hockey League, for the 2008-09 season. The Sea Wolves replaced the Wheeling Nailers, the Flyers' ECHL affiliate for the 2007-08 season.

"We are pleased to have the Mississippi Sea Wolves as our ECHL affiliate," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "The Sea Wolves have a long-standing success in the ECHL and we are excited to have our prospects develop in this environment." *

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