After an absence of nearly two months following hernia and abdominal surgery, veteran left winger Simon Gagne will return to the Flyers' lineup today against the visiting New York Rangers to try to jump-start a listless offense.

How listless?

In their last eight losses, the Flyers have scored only seven goals.

In their last 14 games, they have just 15 even-strength goals.

The Flyers' top scorer, center Mike Richards (27 points), entered last night tied for 48th in scoring in the NHL.

The Flyers led the league in goals per game (3.6) in early November but have since fallen to No. 16 (2.76).

Sidelined for 24 games since Oct. 25, Gagne acknowledged it will be a while before he regains last season's 34-goal form.

"It's definitely going to take more than four or five games before I feel good and feel like myself again," he said after yesterday's practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. "I don't expect to be the same player [today] as when I was 100 percent and in good shape. It's going to take time, and I have to be patent."

Still, his return will give the Flyers a much-needed sniper.

"Anytime you get a top-six player back, you're getting a boost to your lineup," said coach Peter Laviolette, whose team is trying to post points in consecutive games for the first time since he took the job eight games ago. "The name of the game is offense - the top teams in the league are scoring goals - and he gives us more of a threat."

Gagne will play on a line with Mike Richards and Dan Carcillo and also see time on the power play.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on myself," Gagne said. "Every time I'm going to have the puck, I'm going to try to put the puck on the net. Keep it simple. If I do that, I think every game I'm going to start feeling more confident and comfortable, and slowly my game is going to come back."

Gagne said he experienced a "little tightness" in his surgically repaired areas during Thursday's morning skate, but yesterday he felt good. "I did pretty much everything I needed to do to get ready, and the next step is to play. I pushed myself around the ice, battled one on one, stop and go, and everything looked pretty good."

Doctors have assured Gagne he has healed perfectly and that he does not have to worry about a recurring injury.

Yesterday was "pretty much the first time I enjoyed myself in practice," he said. "I knew by the way I was feeling that [today] was going to be my first game back.

"I'm pretty excited. I have family coming for Christmas, so it's going to be fun to have them with me there," added Gagne, whose parents and brother are traveling to the game.

Even though he wasn't healthy when he played earlier this season, Gagne (one goal, four assists) was still a factor. The Flyers averaged 3.2 goals per game in his nine appearances.

Without him, they have averaged 2.7 goals per game.

"He obviously gives us another goal scorer, a guy who's been very opportunistic throughout his career," defenseman Chris Pronger said. "He's a guy who puts the puck in the net in traffic and obviously has a great shot from the slot."

Breakaways. Like the Flyers, the Rangers have struggled offensively. Before Thursday's 5-2 win over the Islanders, the Rangers had scored two goals or fewer in seven straight games. Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, 21, the pride of Cherry Hill, was recently recalled from the minors and played nearly nine minutes for the Rangers on Thursday. . . . Andreas Nodl was sent back to the AHL Adirondack Phantoms.