Bittersweet sympathy

Next season never looked so far away as it does to the Flyers today.

Still, there are decisions to be made, trades to be considered, free agents to be signed, all the while trying to soothe themselves from the pain of coming so agonizingly close to winning it all.

“It hurts a lot,’’ said captain Mike Richards, held to a single goal in the Stanley Cup finals, which went to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games, Patrick Kane’s stunning overtime goal serving as the clincher. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through.”

“With everything we went through we thought we were gonna make history again,” added Simon Gagne. “But it didn’t happen.”

So now they have to pick up the pieces, regroup and start all over again. It won’t be easy.

“It’s going to hurt for awhile,” said Danny Briere, who scored 12 postseason goals. “But I think in a few days we’ll be able to appreciate more the run we went on and the things we made happen over the last two months.’’

Their coach already appreciates it.

“I’m proud of the guys for giving themselves an opportunity to compete for the Cup,” said Peter Laviolette.

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