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A revived Gagne helps fuel Flyers

After missing most of last season, the winger has reached 30 goals for the fourth time.

A year ago, Simon Gagne was not a part of the Flyers' late-season playoff drive.

Now he's doing a lot of the steering.

The 29-year-old left winger has picked up points in 10 of the last 11 games, and in Monday's 4-2 win over New Jersey, he scored his 30th goal - an impressive feat when you consider he missed most of last season with a concussion.

Gagne, who reached the 30-goal mark for the fourth time in his career, said he was tempted to try to return to the lineup during last year's playoffs, but meetings with his family and trainer Jim McCrossin swayed him against it.

"I looked at the big picture - this season," he said. "So, yes, it was the right decision."

In 69 games, Gagne has 69 points and shares the team lead with a plus-22 rating.

"I feel I'm back to the same player I was," he said.

The Flyers are seven points behind Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey and have a game in hand on the Devils.

The Flyers have 10 games left, including two each against Florida, the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers, and Toronto. They also have games against Boston and Ottawa. Out of that group, only the Rangers and Bruins would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today.

"Coming down the stretch, every game is huge, especially against our divisional teams, and we really feel like we're starting to get into that groove," center Jeff Carter said. "We're playing solid [defense], Marty [Biron] is standing on his head making the saves we need, and the guys are just leaving it all out there. It's shown the last couple of games coming up with some wins."

It is likely the sizzling Biron will play tomorrow against visiting Florida, a team on the cusp of earning a playoff spot. Antero Niittymaki is expected to start Saturday against the host Islanders, with Biron likely to oppose Boston Sunday at the Wachovia Center.

Breakaways. The Flyers have won three straight, during which their power play has converted on 7 of 13 chances (53.8 percent). In their last four games, the club has also excelled on the penalty kill, stopping 22 of 24 opportunities (91.7 percent). . . . Biron has a 2.17 goal-against average and .940 save percentage in his last eight starts.