Gagner Gearing Up For Return To NHL

Saturday, January 9, 2016
Sam Gagner looking forward to the Phantoms' three-game weekend. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms received nine-year NHL veteran Sam Gagner just before the calendar year ended and now that the Philadelphia Flyers have cleared some salary by trading both Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn, there's room with the Flyers to fit Gagner and remain under the salary cap.

"I hoped there would be room regardless, but it is what it is," Gagner said after Friday night's 4-3 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, a game in which he scored his first career AHL goal. "I have to come down here and continue to work hard and be sure my game is at a level that when I do get a chance to play in the NHL I'm ready to go and I'm ready to be a really effective player."

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Gagner is still viewing his stint with the Phantoms as a chance to get some ice time, something
Gagner didn't get much of while with the Flyers.

"Obviously there's another level I want to get to, but scoring helps," Gagner said of where his game is at currently. "I got two games the next two days so a chance to stay at it."

For Gagner it will be the first time in nine years, since his days in junior hockey, that he's playing three games in three nights. After being out of the Flyers' lineup for a over a month, he relishes the opportunity to play three games in three straight nights.

"I'd rather play than practice. That's how you get back into it," Gagner said, "I've always been a guy who the more I play the more flow I get in my game and the better I feel. Obviously its been tough in that regard this year in and out of the lineup and stuff like that. I get a chance to do that here and got a good week of practice. This is where you get your game legs back and your game feel back by playing the games so I have to do that this weekend and hopefully help the team to a couple wins here.

Friday's game against the Penguins was Gagner's best game in the AHL, besides the fact he scored a goal.

"Yeah it was," head coach Scott Gordon answered when asked if this was Gagner's best game. "He had a goal tonight and 3 shots and made some nice place on entries. That was good to see. I think for Sam it's all about getting some confidence. Tonight was the most confident I thought he was with the puck in the games that he has played since he's been here."

Gordon has been very complimentary of Gagner throughout his time with the Phantoms. Like with Andrew MacDonald, Gordon understands the circumstances and the situation Gagner is in and is helping him get to the NHL like he would any of his other players.

"Sam is an NHL player," Gordon said of Gagner. "I think whoever plays with him is going to be the benefactor of some good plays."


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