It looks like one of the Flyers' most dynamic forwards, Danny Briere, will return, but that the team's best defenseman, Kimmo Timonen, will remain sidelined in today's showdown against the New Jersey Devils in Newark.

The Flyers are seven points behind the Atlantic Division-leading Devils, but they have two games in hand.

Briere, who has played in just nine games, has been sidelined since Dec. 2 with groin and abdominal injuries.

"It felt stronger than yesterday," Briere said after yesterday's practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. "It's amazing how, with just an extra day or two, you feel a lot better. I'm feeling more and more comfortable."

Besides activating Briere, the Flyers loaned forward Claude Giroux and defenseman Lasse Kukkonen to the Phantoms and recalled defenseman Nate Guenin from the AHL team.

The demotion of Giroux, who has been one of the Flyers' best offensive players recently, was surprising. General manager Paul Holmgren said the demotion was not cap-related, though it does clear about $1.7 million.

"It's in the best interest of the team," said Holmgren, declining to elaborate other than adding that he didn't expect Giroux to spend much time with the Phantoms.

Coach John Stevens said there was a "good chance" Briere would play today, but cautioned that "you have to be careful because things change."

"Getting Danny back in the lineup will be a big boost for us," winger Mike Knuble said. "It sure makes us an interesting team coming down to the end.''

Timonen will miss his fourth straight game because of the flu, but hopes to play Tuesday in Boston.

If Briere plays, Stevens wasn't sure where he would take a regular shift, but he does plan to move him up front on the first power-play unit, with Mike Richards taking Timonen's spot on the point.

Stevens said he wants the power-play unit to "start shooting the puck more" and "not pass it to the net all the time."

The Flyers' power play is 7 for 68 (10.3 percent) in its last 15 games, and it was 0 for 8 - including a pair of five-on-three chances - in Friday's 4-3 overtime loss to Montreal.

The Flyers are likely to face future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur, who returned Thursday after missing nearly four months because of elbow surgery - and blanked Colorado, 4-0. He also was in net yesterday when the Devils beat Florida, 7-2.

"Nothing surprises you with him anymore," Stevens said. "Knowing him, I'm sure he worked extremely hard to be ready. They gave him a little extra time to make sure he was ready. He'll probably go down as the greatest goaltender ever, so I'm not surprised about anything that comes his way."