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Newly minted line gives Flyers extra zip

Flyers coach John Stevens tinkered with his lines over the weekend and, surprisingly, the most effective group turned out to be the one with the least experience.

Flyers coach John Stevens tinkered with his lines over the weekend and, surprisingly, the most effective group turned out to be the one with the least experience.

That's the line of Claude Giroux centering Scottie Upshall and Darroll Powe. Giroux, a converted winger, and Powe are rookies. Upshall, at 25, is the group's elder statesman.

"They showed a lot of jump," Stevens said after yesterday's practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees.

In two weekend wins, the line combined for seven points and was plus-8.

"We've built a lot of chemistry on the line lately," Upshall said. "We work well together, and moving Giroux to the middle has given him more opportunity to see the ice and get the puck more; he's a great playmaking offensive forward. And me and Powe complement each other's speed and intensity pretty well. We're a line that lately can go out and compete against other teams' best lines."

The line's emergence has taken some of the pressure off the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter lines.

Giroux accounted for four points (two goals, two assists) during the weekend, sparking a 5-1 win over the New York Islanders and a 5-2 conquest of the New York Rangers.

"He's such a good playmaker, but look at the intensity he brings with his second and third efforts on pucks. He battles hard," Upshall said. "And Powe is a guy who's straight up and down and battles hard and gets the puck in and out. And it's funny to say, but I'm kind of the veteran, the guy with the experience on the line. I think we communicate well, and it's a good line."

Powe, 23, a Princeton University graduate who may be the Flyers' fastest player, says he feels comfortable with his linemates.

"It seems we've been creating a lot offensively and have been pretty responsible defensively as well," Powe said.

When the Flyers selected Giroux with their No. 1 pick in 2006, then-general manager Bob Clarke forgot the forward's name as he started to announce the choice. Clarke seemed flustered because he apparently had been set to select another player, defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti from South Jersey, before the Rangers plucked him one pick before the Flyers.

"It was kind of funny. I still don't care" that his name was briefly forgotten, Giroux said with a smile. "Just being able to get drafted, that was my plan - even if he forgot my name."

Briere update. Center Danny Briere, recovering from surgery to his groin and abdomen, had targeted Feb. 25 as his return date.

Now he thinks it will be sooner.

"It's not 100 percent," Briere said, "but it's getting close."

Briere said there was a possibility he could return Saturday against Pittsburgh, though Stevens said next week was more realistic.

It's likely Briere will return Tuesday in Washington.

Breakaways. Winger Scott Hartnell tweaked his left shoulder and left practice early to receive treatment, but he said he would play tomorrow against visiting Buffalo. . . . After two sharp performances over the weekend, Marty Biron will get the start tomorrow. "He's got a little more edge to his game and a little more intensity - and I think that's what we were seeing last year when he got to such a high level," Stevens said. . . . After a bout with the flu, Antero Niittymaki was back at practice yesterday. He could start Saturday afternoon against Pittsburgh.