CHICAGO - After a slow start that was followed by a 10-game absence because of a concussion, former Flyers center Danny Briere has regrouped and played well in his first season with the Montreal Canadiens.
On Thursday, for the first time since he has worn the famous bleu, blanc, et rouge sweater, Briere will return to the Wells Fargo Center and face the Flyers.
How will the fans greet him? "I don't know what to expect," he said.
Briere, bothered by injuries in his last two seasons with the Flyers, was one of the most popular players during his six years with the team. The diminutive veteran carried the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago in 2010, finishing with a franchise-record 30 playoff points.
After last season, the Flyers bought out the final two years of his contract, eliminating his annual $6.5 million salary-cap hit.
Being away from his three boys, who live in South Jersey with their mother, has been a difficult adjustment, Briere said.
"It's been tough being away from them," Briere said in a phone conversation Wednesday. "We have this game, we play here in January, and then we have the Olympic break, so we'll get to have some time."
They stay in touch through Skype, phone calls, and text messages.
"They came down for Thanksgiving, which was nice because I hadn't seen them for 2½ months," he said. "It was a tough stretch. I got to experience it a little last year when I was playing in Germany [during the lockout], but it wasn't as long."
Briere, 36, kept his house in Haddonfield and plans to retire in the area when his playing days end.
"This is home for me now, with the kids being here," he said, adding that the fans were "amazing" to him during his Flyers career.
Briere (five goals, five assists) has helped the Canadiens win 10 of their last 12 games. He called Montreal "a cool place to play. We were on a streak, so it was lots of fun. The city is behind us."
The Flyers will show a video tribute on Thursday to Briere, who did not score in host Montreal's 4-1 win over them on Oct. 5.
"He was a good teammate," winger Matt Read said before Wednesday's game against the Blackhawks. "He was a big face of the Philadelphia Flyers organization and it's good for him to have a homecoming. He deserves it."