Odd Man Rush: Canadiens hope Briere is worth the wait

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Updated: 7/11/2013 3:01 pm

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Danny Briere will finally be able to turn those raucous Bell Centre boos into a more soothing sound wave of laudatory cheers.

Six years ago, the Quebec-born Briere drew the ire of Canadiens fans when he took his free agent services to the City of Brotherly Love rather than return home to Canada -- specifically Montreal. And every time that Briere's Philadelphia Flyers made the journey up north, the Hab faithful were quick to remind him of his treasonous actions.

Now fast forward to the summer of 2013, when the ability of the Flyers to buy out the remaining two years of Briere's eight-year, $52 million deal he originally sold his soul for made this homecoming possible.

In a twist of fate, Briere will instead spend his next couple of seasons with the Canadiens after agreeing to a two-year deal with the franchise on Thursday.

"For me, the Montreal Canadiens fans are probably the most passionate fans in the NHL," said Briere. "It's an honor to be playing for them, in front of them and all I'm hoping is that we'll all be cheering the same direction when the season starts and we'll be pushing along to rack up some wins. That's what I'm looking forward to."

But the Canadiens also know they are not getting the same Briere they pursued six years ago. He posted a career-high 63 assists and 95 points in 2006-07 to conclude his tenure with the Buffalo Sabres and became a favorite in Philadelphia after logging 31 goals and 72 points in his first season with the Flyers.

Injury limited him to 29 games the following season, but he morphed into a steady producer for the Flyers the next few years. Never was he more popular in Philadelphia than during the 2010 playoffs, when he notched a club postseason-record 30 points in 23 games to help lead a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

But that was the last highlight of his Flyers' career. Briere notched just 49 points in 70 games during the 2011-12 season and suffered a wrist injury during the lockout that delayed the start to his shortened campaign.

Briere also sustained a concussion for the second straight season during the 2013 campaign and concluded the year with just 16 points in 34 games.

The 5-foot-10 forward said he was never able to catch up last season due to injuries, but also said that his recent concussion history isn't a concern.

"I took the proper course to let them heal. In both cases, I took my time. Nothing was compounded. Once I returned to play, I was fine and there wasn't any issue that followed up. I'm 100 percent in that regard," he said.

While he isn't expected to become the face of the franchise -- that role belongs to the likes of Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban and Carey Price -- the Habs are hoping that they are getting a healthy and motivated producer who can add depth.

"Last year, especially with the short season, starting behind everybody because of injuries, I am definitely looking forward to bouncing back," said Briere. "I've done that my whole life, my whole career. It's always been about finding the motivation to bounce back.

"Coming to Montreal makes it really easy, first of all. Having the chance to play for the Canadiens, I think there's no better motivation than that."

There is no doubt Briere should fit into the hockey culture of Montreal. He grew up in Quebec and speaks French, which is always a big plus for those who put on a Canadiens sweater. The only thing that could doom this dream come true is a lack of production on the ice, a possibility given Briere's last two seasons.

But it sounds like Briere is up to the challenge.

"I feel blessed that I received this second chance," the winger said. "That's why I wanted to do everything possible to sign with the Canadiens."

Here's hoping that blessing doesn't turn into a curse.

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