Lightning’s Gagne should make another Bruins-series return

Gagne/By S. Bradley

The Bruins saw what a difference-maker winger Simon Gagne could be last spring.

Gagne returned to the Philadelphia lineup from injury and led the historic comeback from 0-3 down in the Bruins-Flyers second-round series, as he scored four goals, including two game-winners, during the Flyers’ amazing run.

Now with Tampa Bay, Gagne looks ready to make yet another return from injury in time to face the Bruins — this time for the start of the Bruins-Lightning Eastern Conference final series, which will start later this week.

Gagne suffered a concussion in Game 1 of Tampa Bay’s second-round sweep of Washington after a hit by defenseman Scott Hannan. He left that game and didn’t return to the series. Today he practiced with his teammates for the first time since the injury.

“I felt pretty good. I skated yesterday by myself, and now skating with the team today, I feel good,” Gagne told the media after practice. “So we have a lot of time, when we don’t know yet when we’re going to play, but right now it’s perfect timing. I’ll have three, maybe five practices before the next game, so it’s great timing for myself.”

Gagne admitted that he felt fine even the day after the hit by Hannan. But as a precautionary measure he stayed out of Game 2 and then remained on the sidelines as the Lightning made short work of the Capitals. Now he’ll be well-rested and ready to be a thorn in the Bruins’ side again by the time the next series starts.

However, Gagne knows this year’s Bruins are much different than last year’s.

“I was watching the last two games against Philly and … they understand a lot of what it takes to win this year. They learned a lot from last year,” said the speedster, who has posted 2-5-7 totals in eight postseason games. “They look like they’re on a mission right now and their goal is to go where we want to go too. It’s not going to be easy.

“They’ve got some new guys. I think they play a lot better as a team. Last year Tuukka Rask was really good, but I think [Tim] Thomas might be an upgrade for them in goal now. It’s definitely a better team than they had last year.”

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