Simon Gagne and Marty Brodeur met before most games at center ice.

Brodeur on one side of the red line and Gagne on the other, the Devils' goalie and the Flyers' top forward.

"Usually during the warmup he's on the Red line stretching and I'm usually there, too," Gagne said. "We would joke that for whatever reason I was having success against him and for me to take it easy on him."

The ritual didn't happen last night. For the first time in 38 straight games between the teams, Brodeur, out for 4 months recovering from biceps surgery, was not in net.

The last time that happened was Feb. 27, 2002, when John Vanbiesbrouck started. The Flyers won the game in New Jersey, 1-0.

"It will be weird," Gagne said just after yesterday's pregame skate. "It will be special, like something is missing without him out there.

"They're still doing well without him, they're still a playoff team." Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes are trading time in goal with Brodeur out.

"But it will be different," Gagne said. "I would talk to Marty during the game. We know each other pretty good and it will definitely be weird not to have him there."

Not that Brodeur ever scared Gagne: He has scored 17 times against the New Jersey Devils with him in net.

But Gagne and Brodeur have shared more than a lot of time on the ice as competitors. They were Olympic teammates and roommates during the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy.

They have mutual friends in Montreal and while Gagne hasn't talked with Brodeur, he knows the future Hall of Fame goalie is frustrated about being injured.

"I had dinner with one of his friends and I saw his brother, too," Gagne said. "It's pretty much the first time in his career that he's going through a tough time like that. He's pretty disappointed with everything that is going on this year, having the All-Star Game in Montreal. He's from there."

Snap shots

With Danny Briere out for the next month, Darrell Powe was called up from the Phantoms yesterday and centered the fourth line last night with Riley Cote and Arron Asham . . . Matt Carle (back) skated during the morning practice yesterday but left the ice after only 5 minutes. He is day-to-day. *