Flyers defenceman Derian Hatcher is finishing with a flourish

Hatcher was struggling early in the season when the Flyers set team records for futility. But since the NHL all-star break in mid-January, the team has picked up its play a little – and Hatcher has started contributing.

Coach John Stevens now has Hatcher as a down-low presence on the power play. Hatcher has responded with goals in his last two games, ending a 125-game drought.

“Maybe I’m a little bit better player than I was earlier in the year,” he said after Monday’s practice at the Wachovia Center, “but we were just a bad team. What’s the first that’s going to get exposed? Your goalies, then the defencemen.”

What’s the difference now?

“It’s probably confidence and trust,” Hatcher said. “I can trust that the guy is going to be where he should so I can go up. Before, we didn’t have that at all. Right now if guys aren’t doing it, they’re not going to play.”

There were rumours that Hatcher would be moved to a playoff contender at the trade deadline, but he made it known to general manager Paul Holmgren that he preferred to remain with the Flyers.

READ ALSO:  Judge rules Balsillie will be permitted to bid at Coyotes auction

“I told them I wanted to stay,” Hatcher said. “If they wanted to get rid of me, that’s just the way hockey is.”

Right now, Hatcher figures in the Flyers’ plans for next season. Notes: Left wing Simon Gagne, out since March 10 with a left groin injury, practised Monday but said he’s only about 80 per cent. He doesn’t expect to see action before the weekend. Gagne needs just three goals in the final 10 games to reach the 40 mark. … The Flyers have called up centre Ryan Potulny from the Philadelphia Phantoms. Potulny was recently sidelined by an ankle infection that required a five-day hospital stay. Potulny is expected to be in the lineup on Tuesday night when the Flyers host the Florida Panthers. … Goaltender Martin Biron, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1 but has announced his desire to stay in Philadelphia, says there is no need to rush to complete a contract extension. His family recently arrived in Philadelphia for the first time and is getting acquainted with the city.