Danny Briere will be sidelined for four to five weeks with a "significant" groin strain aggravated in his return Tuesday against Tampa Bay, but Flyers coach John Stevens said the club didn't rush the high-scoring center back too soon.

"Danny rushed back? I don't think so," Stevens said after the Flyers' voluntary practice yesterday in Voorhees, before the diagnosis was made.

"I mean, we try to take due diligence," Stevens said. "We kept him out longer than he probably wanted to be out. He was going to try to play last weekend, and we pushed him in practice and felt like he was ready to go."

Briere, 31, who had missed the previous nine games with a groin strain, was removed Tuesday in the second period. He was injured as he was jockeying for position and was jolted in front of the net.

"I did my pouting last night and this morning," Briere said in a conference call with reporters yesterday afternoon. "Obviously, I'm very frustrated and I still feel that way. I feel like I'm letting the organization down, and my coaches and teammates and fans down."

"But at the same time, I've had lots of calls from different players and John Stevens, and all were very positive about the whole thing," he said.

Briere's MRI was reviewed yesterday by Drs. William Meyers of Hahnemann University Hospital and Adam Zoga of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Briere said doctors told him the injury was not aggravated because he was rushed back.

He said that based on his discussion with the doctors, "it didn't matter even if I waited another week or two" before returning.

"You do everything you can in practice to try and prepare a player," such as providing full contact, "and all indications were that he was ready to play," Stevens said.

Briere had the MRI of his stomach and groin area yesterday, general manager Paul Holmgren said. "There weren't any issues at all with his stomach, but there is a significant groin strain in there," Holmgren said.

Earlier this year, Briere missed six games because of a sports hernia. Briere said the injuries were related, and hoped that when he healed, all his abdominal and groin issues would be resolved.

Holmgren said Briere would start rehabilitating the injured area tomorrow.

"But the explosiveness involved in skating, especially for a quick guy like Danny, is so key, so it's important that he rest it, too, by staying off the ice right now," he said.

The general manager said the Flyers would call up Darroll Powe from the Phantoms. Powe or Jon Kalinski will probably replace Briere tonight against visiting New Jersey.

Losing Briere - and putting him on the long-term injured list - opens cap space for the Flyers to add defenseman Randy Jones around mid-December, when he is recovered from hip surgery.

It's hard to find a positive "when you lose one of your top players, who would probably be your top scorer if he was playing," Holmgren said. "That's really hard to swallow. But it is what it is. But, yes, when Randy comes back, we have some flexibility that we didn't have before."

It is the third time this season that a Flyer has been reinjured after returning to the lineup.

Briere had injured his groin two games after returning from the abdominal surgery. Defenseman Ossi Vaananen missed three games with a broken finger, then tore the stitches open in his first game back and was sidelined for four more games.

The Flyers, aided by strong performances from their Phantoms call-ups, have been 10-3-2 in Briere's absence. They are 2-4-3 in games he has played.

Briere, who has five goals and four assists in nine games, said surgery was never mentioned after his latest injury.