Danny Briere's latest groin injury, suffered in Thursday's 5-1 loss to Calgary, is not as severe as first feared.

The Flyers center was examined by Dr. William Meyers yesterday and, according to Briere, could play as early as Tuesday against visiting Buffalo.

When he met with reporters yesterday, Briere was all smiles.

"It's a big relief this morning, no doubt about it," Briere said. "It wasn't as bad as we thought [Thursday] night. I had a little workout this morning and I'm hoping to get back on the ice [today] skating."

Briere doesn't expect to play tonight against Nashville, "but after that, anything is possible. It's day to day after that."

That means he could return Tuesday.

The news lifted the spirits of a Flyers team that is reeling, having lost three of their last four games after some roster-juggling necessitated by their salary cap.

"When you see Danny coming back, you get the sense that we have a full, healthy club," goalie Marty Biron said after yesterday's practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. "And then you see him go down again in a game where nothing is going right. It's tough. It was a downer after the game to know he had a setback, and to get that [news] this morning is a positive thing."

This season, Meyers has operated twice on Briere, who on Thursday played in just his third game since Dec. 2. He has played in only 12 games this season.

According to Briere, Meyers told him "adhesions broke [Thursday] and there's internal bleeding. He saw swelling. He also told me it wasn't abnormal. Everybody's body reacts to surgery and to adhesions differently, but he's seen this before and he said most guys go through ups and downs, but it's just a little downer right now and, hopefully, within a couple of days I'll be back playing."

Coach John Stevens was cautiously optimistic.

"Hopefully, it's good news," Stevens said. "We won't know until time goes by."

The Flyers are 3-6-3 with Briere in the lineup (1-5-3 when he has played a full game), but that statistic is misleading because it includes the 0-3-3 start - when all the players had awful numbers.

They are 31-13-7 without him.

Briere left Thursday's contest late in the second period, but he re-aggravated his groin in the opening period.

"It started earlier in the game and it just kept tightening up," Briere said. "You know how it is. Being down 4-0 after the first period, I didn't want to leave the guys and say, 'I can't play anymore.' And honestly, I thought it was just a little bit of tightness and would get better as the game went on, but it just kept getting worse and worse."

In his first few second-period shifts, Briere said, "I had a hard time taking off. I would go in the corner, and I had a hard time just fighting for the puck because I was just trying to protect [my groin], and by the end of the second period, I had no strength left on that side."

As he went into the dressing room Thursday, "I was thinking I probably tweaked it and it'll probably be another two to four weeks," Briere said. "That was my initial reaction, but I'm not a doctor, so what I learned this morning was a big relief."

Before he returned Sunday against New Jersey, Briere said there was no thought of going to the Phantoms to test his groin - like he did after an earlier injury.

"I think I can protect it a little more when I play with the Phantoms, but I wanted to see how it is when I go all out," he said, adding he wasn't disappointed he didn't do another rehabilitation assignment before rejoining the Flyers because, "I don't think it would have given me all the answers."

Breakaways. Biron, who will start tonight, played solidly in a two-period relief stint Thursday. "I think, hopefully, it's a confidence booster," Stevens said. . . . The Flyers called up forward Andreas Nodl from the Phantoms. He played on the fourth line with Darroll Powe and Riley Cote at yesterday's practice, while Claude Giroux centered the third line with newcomer Daniel Carcillo and Arron Asham.