VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Fifteen seconds into tonight's game with the Canucks, the Flyers lost the services of Simon Gagne after he was blindsided on a hit by Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa.

Gagne, who has made a remarkable recovery from a concussion that sidelined him for most of last season, appeared to injure his right shoulder. The Flyers said he suffered an "upper-body injury" and would not return.

After Bieksa hit Gagne, the left winger went down to the ice. Flyers captain Mike Richards immediately went after Bieksa and the two slugged it out. Bieksa appeared to have the edge.

"He hit Gaggy. I kind of saw it out of the corner of my eye. I felt it was kind of a cheap hit, a late hit and from behind," Richards said. "So I felt I had to do something about it. I thought it was a hit that should have been a penalty and there wasn't a call. So I think you kind of have to address it in a way that you don't want to but you have to."

Gagne went into the game with 18 goals and 22 assists. He led the Flyers with a plus-18 rating, which placed him eighth in the NHL.

Rookie Claude Giroux replaced Gagne on the first line with Richards and Mike Knuble.

Defensemen return. As expected, Flyers defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Matt Carle played against the Canucks after missing the previous game with injuries.

Timonen sat out just one game even though he suffered a chip fracture of his left ankle Friday in Chicago. His return was especially important because he is the team's top defender and is also a vital player on special teams.

Carle returned after missing a game with a bruised bone in his left ankle.

Defensemen Luca Sbisa and Lasse Kukkonen were among the game's healthy scratches along with winger Arron Asham.

Entering the game, the Flyers had not lost in Vancouver since Jan. 17, 1989. Since then, they were 9-0-4 in Vancouver.

Briere update. Danny Briere, recovering from a groin injury, skated again during a morning workout, but coach John Stevens said it was a "long shot" that the high-scoring center would be able to play Friday in Anaheim.

Before Briere returns, the Flyers will have to clear about $2 million in salary-cap space. A trade seems imminent.

Briere, Timonen, Gagne, Scott Hartnell and Marty Biron are the Flyers with no-trade clauses in their contracts.

Breakaways. Ali Stafford, whose husband, Ben, played for the AHL Phantoms and is now serving with the Marines in Iraq, will visit with the Flyers before Friday's game in Anaheim. She lives in southern California. . . . Stevens hopes to gather the team to watch Wednesday's game between the United States and Canada in the world junior hockey championship.

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com.