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JANUARY 2000

Excerpt from: FATIGUE? SCHEDULE? THREE GAME SLIDE HAS FLYERS LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
Philadelphia Inquirer (By Tim Pannacio) -- January 19, 2000

Rookie Simon Gagne, who is centering the first line in Lindros' absence and has seen his ice time go from 10 minutes to 18 minutes, had his own take on the Flyers' recent troubles.

"We had three games in four nights, and sometimes that is tough," Gagne said. "Not always tough physically, but up in the head. I remember some of the guys saying after Christmas that they felt tired."

Gagne said he had not adjusted to his increased playing time as well as he would have liked.

"It's been pretty tough to take the place of an Eric Lindros," he said. "Tough to do that. I know I have to help Johnny [LeClair] score, and I am trying to give it my best, but it's tough for me to say that I have given my best when we lose three games."

"I know I went from 10 minutes to 18 to 20 minutes, and when you double your time right away, it's is very hard on you physically," Gagne said. "I am still trying to build up my tempo for the longer minutes."


'GAGS' ON CAROLINA THIS TIME
Philadelphia Daily News (By Les Bowen) -- January 12, 2000

RALEIGH, N.C. - This time, Simon Gagne lifted the puck.

Earlier in the third period, with the Flyers struggling to get back into a game they once had dominated, Gagne shot what would have been the tying goal into Arturs Irbe's glove. Irbe was sprawled across the crease with the entire net open above him.

Rod Brind'Amour eventually got that tying tally, anyway, and now, the puck Gagne was skating toward, lying on its edge just to the right of the slot, was the potential game-winner.

Bang. Top shelf.

The rookie's eighth goal, scored on a power play, with 1:19 left in regulation, allowed the Flyers to escape with an entertaining, if flawed, 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I just see Eric [Lindros] going to the net," Gagne said after the Flyers won their sixth in succession, running their unbeaten streak to seven games at 6-0-1. "I see the rebound coming, Irbe down. I had just missed one before that. . .I say to myself, 'I will not miss this chance.' "

Lindros had steamed out from behind the net with the puck, fully intending to score the goal himself.

"I was going for the 'wrapper,' but Irbe poked it," Lindros said. "[After that] I didn't see it. But 'Gags' did."

The result infuriated the Hurricanes.

They are the NHL's least-penalized team, with its best home-ice penalty kill. They were whistled for nothing through two periods, before referee Richard Trottier put them shorthanded twice in the third, leading to the Flyers' top-ranked power play scoring the tying and winning goals.

On top of that, Carolina scored an apparent go-ahead goal with 2:50 left in regulation, but Trottier ruled that winger Tommy Westlund illegally shoved Flyers goalie John Vanbiesbrouck over the goal line with the puck, an interpretation that not surprisingly was endorsed by the Beezer.

Then, 27 seconds later, Trottier called Westlund for charging Brind'Amour, providing the power play that led to Gagne's goal.

"You can use any explanation you can possibly think of tonight because there can't be a logical one," Carolina coach Paul Maurice fumed. "Maybe aliens came down and took over [Trottier's] helmet. It's just wrong to play that hard and have it end like that. . .unbelievable."

Vanbiesbrouck saw it differently.

"He pushed me at my knees, to push me into the net. His stick wasn't going after the puck, it was going after my knees," the Beezer said.

Brind'Amour felt Westlund deserved the charging penalty, which didn't look terribly vicious on replay.

"Somebody got me pretty good," he said.

Flyers assistant coach Craig Ramsay, who met with reporters afterward so head coach Roger Neilson could catch a late flight back to Philadelphia to get his chemotherapy pump checked, noted the league is trying to crack down on hits from behind.

The bottom line on the evening might have been that the Flyers' size and strength eventually worked its strength-sapping magic, even on a very disciplined opponent.

"Our style, it's hard to play us all night without getting a penalty. We tend to hold the puck a lot and try to cycle down low and try to take the puck to the net. Sooner or later, a team tires," Ramsay said. "Generally, we tend to draw penalties."

In the first period, the Flyers were forechecking and cycling the 'Canes into submission, controlling the tone of the game far beyond the 1-0 score at the first intermission.

They took that lead 1:09 into the evening, as Valeri Zelepukin cashed in a Sandy McCarthy rebound. Zelepukin had played 28 games since his last goal, the overtime game-winner Oct. 28 against Colorado.

The Flyers outshot the 'Canes, 11-2, in the first and should have had more goals. Mikael Andersson, set up nicely by Gagne on a two-on-one, shot a sure tally over the net with 3:39 left in the first.

The missed chances were underlined when Martin Gelinas blasted a shot over the Beezer's shoulder into the top far corner of the net, 2:08 into the second.

Lindros and John LeClair limited that damage by combining on a trademark goal. Lindros snapped a backhand pass from behind the net, perfect for LeClair's one-timer at the left of the slot, just 46 seconds after the Gelinas goal.

Then, the Flyers were 22 seconds from killing a Lindros elbowing penalty when former Flyer Andre Kovalenko, cruising slowly down the right circle, somehow shot the puck between Vanbiesbrouck's left pad and the post. It was a terrible short-side goal, 5:55 into the second.

Shades of last spring's playoffs.

"That was one I'm sure no one on the bench was happy about," Vanbiesbrouck said.

The shots on net were 12-5 in the Flyers' favor. The score was 2-2. After that, the 'Canes were on fire. They took the lead 7:17 into the third, when Jeff O'Neill passed out of the corner to Gary Roberts, all alone in front of the Flyers' inattentive top line, for a backhander that was Roberts's 300th NHL goal. The Flyers might have been distracted by their bench yelling for an icing call that never came.

"We were so good early, we probably relaxed a bit," Ramsay said. "As soon as they got some life [on the Kovalenko goal], they started playing extremely well."

Brind'Amour got the Flyers even on their first power play of the game, batting Mark Recchi's rebound out of the air with 9:42 left in the third. It was Brind'Amour's fifth goal in the eight games he has played since coming back from a broken foot.

"I don't think it was a great effort," Brind'Amour said. "But we played hard in the third and came back, which is always the best way to do it."


GAGNÉ NO ORDINARY ROOKIE
Pillyburbs.com (By Wayne Fish) -- January 6, 2000

VOORHEES - Since they were created, the Flyers are 0 for 32 when it comes to rookie of the year. Bob Clarke never won it. Bill Barber lost to roman candle Steve Vickers. Ron Hextall took the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals in 1987 and finished second to Luc Robitaille.

Maybe current sensation Simon Gagne can surprise everyone and end the streak.

If the month of December was any indication, anything is possible. Gagne, given a reprieve from the World Junior Championships after coach Roger Neilson was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, scored 12 points in 13 games and was voted NHL rookie of the month.

The Flyers don't care whether Gagne wins or not. They just want their 19-year-old center to stay healthy and continue to improve.

They consider Gagne a worthy candidate for the Calder Trophy, even if New Jersey's Scott Gomez, Colorado's Alex Tanguay and the New York Rangers' Michael York have posted more impressive statistics.

"I think I have a possibility," he said with a grin after yesterday's practice. "Gomez has a lot of points, though. I try to play my game first and after that, it (rookie of the year) would be a bonus."

Maturity and patience are two words Simon's teammates use to describe him.

"He had a great start and, like any rookie, had a little bit of a slow period there," said John LeClair. "But he showed what a great player he is by bouncing right back. He had a great month in December."

"I'm surprised with the composure 'Gags' has with the puck. In certain situations on the power play, he has the puck a lot and he handles the pressure well. That's a big bonus. It usually takes a lot of kids time.&Qout;

Mikael Renberg joined Gagne's line right after Keith Jones returned from knee surgery. He's noticed the improvement in the young center's game.

"He's very mature," said Renberg. "He was down in November but boy did he pick it up in December. With his speed and his vision, he's going to be a great player in the game. What we see now is nothing compared with what we're going to see in a couple years."

Most rookies run around the ice, frantically looking for the proper position. Gagne seems to find that place without burning extra energy.

"Even when he wasn't playing well, I found him relaxed," said Renberg. "That's a good sign. He doesn't stress out because he has a bad game.'"

With seven goals and 20 points,Gagne stands fourth in the league in rookie scoring behind Gomez, Tanguay and York. But Gagne is first in power-play goals (four), power-play assists (eight) and points (12).

Once Gagne knew he wasn't going to Sweden with Team Canada, he realized his position with the Flyers was stabilized. That was a relief and his game began to pick up.

"When it was decided I wasn't going to Worlds, I started thinking that I would be with the team for the rest of the season," Gagne said.

His biggest challenge is to avoid the highs and lows that come with the typical rookie season.

"I have to prove that I can play with guys like (Eric) Lindros and (John) LeClair every night,'" he said. "It's tough to be the 'man' on the power play here with guys like that, but I played the power play a lot in junior and I just keep trying to do the same things I did there.'"

Said Neilson: "He's improving in every area and that (rookie of the month award) should be a big confidence builder for him."

"We liked him right from the start, he seemed to be able to do everything and he had a good attitude. He's in a good situation here because he doesn't have to be the star player. He can just come in and work himself in gradually."


PHILADELPHIA FLYERS CENTER SIMON GAGNE NAMED NHL ROOKIE OF THE MONTH
The Philadelphia Flyers' Press Box -- January 4, 2000

Philadelphia Flyers center Simon Gagne has been named the NHL Rookie of the Month for December. Gagne led all NHL rookies in scoring with two goals and 10 assists for 12 points in 13 games. The Flyers posted an 8-3-2 record in 13 games this month, improving to fifth in the League’s overall standings.Gagne edged New Jersey Devils center Scott Gomez (4-6-10 in 15 games), Atlanta Thrashers center Patrik Stefan (1-9-10 in 13 games) and Nashville Predators center David Legwand (4-5-9 in 15 games) to capture the award.

Gagne recorded points in eight of 13 games in December, beginning the month with points in three consecutive games. On Dec. 2, he scored a power-play goal in a 4-2 road win over the Buffalo Sabres before recording two assists in back-to-back games on Dec. 4 (3-2 win vs. Montreal) and Dec. 5 (3-2 win vs. St. Louis). Gagne posted his first three-point game on Dec. 29, tallying a goal and two assists as the Flyers defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-2.

The 19-year old Gagne ranks fourth among all rookie scorers with 20 points (7-13-20 in 38 games), sixth in team scoring. Gagne has been a fixture on the Flyers’ special teams, leading all NHL rookies with four goals and 12 points on the power play.

The 6’, 175-pound native of Ste. Foy, Quebec was Philadelphia’s first choice (22nd overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Gagne enjoyed a successful junior career with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, compiling 220 points (89-131-220 in 165 games). He led the first-place Remparts in scoring last season with a 50-70-120 record in 61 games, and was selected to the QMJHL Second All-Star Team. Gagne received the Paul Dumont Trophy last season as the league’s Personality of the Year.