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Stevens has Flyers playing 'What's My Line?'

Mike Richards thought his coach was trying to pick his NCAA pool and applied the just-guess logic to making new lines.

Mike Richards thought his coach was trying to pick his NCAA pool and applied the just-guess logic to making new lines.

Danny Briere likened the changes to the tactic John Stevens used to wake up his team last year when he moved everyone in the practice facility to a different locker. Scott Hartnell said he didn't know what Stevens was thinking, but, "It was interesting."

Regardless of the reactions in the Flyers' locker room yesterday, the players didn't seem to mind that Stevens had completely shuffled his top three lines.

"It gives us more depth, kind of spreads things out a little bit more and allows different people to be on the ice at different times where you don't need to line match and things like that," Richards said. "It's kind of the same thing [as picking an NCAA pool], I think. Everybody just guessing and kind of putting things in different areas. [Stevens] probably did it this morning while he was doing his pool and just filled in the blanks."

He was joking, but Stevens had spent most of Wednesday meeting with his assistants and coming up with the changes. When he was done, he had significantly changed his forward lines.

On the ice at practice yesterday were Richards centering Daniel Carcillo and Joffrey Lupul; Jeff Carter centering Briere and Hartnell; Claude Giroux centering Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble; and Darrell Powe centering Riley Cote and Arron Asham.

Stevens said the shuffle was about trying to find a good spot for Briere, but he also was hoping to get some balance throughout the lineup and to rally his team after back-to-back losses and a drop-off in offense. He said yesterday that there was a loose plan to give Briere four games to get going again and then think about making a change, but after the loss Tuesday in Detroit he started moving the pieces around.

"The last two games, for me, we haven't been aggressive enough," Stevens said. "We have a good skating group of forwards, but I just don't think we've been aggressive enough. We need to spend more time in the offensive zone.

"We were working [Briere] in slowly, but clearly we have to get him more involved, and also a guy like Danny Carcillo we want to get more involved. I think we have guys on our four lines that can move up and down the lineup . . . It gives a pretty deep forward group and allows us to have balanced scoring."

It is not, Stevens said, like last year when he switched the nameplates above the lockers. That came at the end of a long losing streak and some very emotional team meetings.

Still, Briere said it felt like that. He thought his comeback from a season of groin and abdomen injuries was progressing and he was ready to take a more important role than fourth-line winger.

"I'm feeling more confident, more comfortable with my skating and I feel like I can start maybe helping out a little bit more than I have the last few games," he said. "At this point we're all trying to figure out what's gone wrong and trying to get back on the winning ways."

Gagne agreed with Briere that something was missing.

"The last couple of games we didn't create a lot of scoring chances," Gagne said. "We don't shoot the puck enough, we're not spending enough time in the offensive zone. I don't know if it's going to last the rest of the season, but sometimes a little bit of change will bring that energy or that thing you're looking for.

"It's a big change," he added. "It's the first time it really happened this year. All year we were pretty much the same first two lines, the third and fourth two lines were changing once in a while. But if you look, we tried to find four lines we can put on the ice at any time of the game, and by mixing all those guys together, first, second, third line and fourth line, those are lines you can put on the ice in any situation and have more depth."

Snap shots

Losing a game has often meant a different goalie starting the next game, but Marty Biron will be back in net in Buffalo . . . Randy Jones did not skate yesterday but is expected to skate today. The Flyers will have a better idea of when they can get him back in the lineup after he tests his sore right hip on the ice. *

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