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Flyers’ Cote suspended for three games

Riley Cote today became the fifth Flyer suspended by the NHL this season.

Riley Cote today became the fifth Flyer suspended by the NHL this season.

The left wing was suspended for three games for hitting Dallas defenseman Matt Niskanen in the head with his elbow in the final minutes of Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Stars.

In addition to the suspension, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren that more such incidents could result is disciplinary action against the entire organization.

"They think, like I do, that these are different coincidences, and have to be viewed differently. But the question was raised about ramifications if it happens again," Holmgren said. "Obviously, we're under watch."

Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly spoke to Holmgren in separate calls after Cote's hearing. Asked whether the players will be informed now that the league has put the organization on notice, Holmgren said, "It has been addressed and will continue to addressed. We want to play hard but play within the rules. It has to stop."

Colin Campbell, the league's disciplinarian, gave Cote the suspension during a conference call with the Flyers today.

Niskanen, who turned in time to escape the brunt of the hit but could not avoid it entirely, was uninjured. Had he been injured, Cote could have gotten more games.

"I had a chance to plead my case," Cote said. "I wasn't out there to hurt anybody but get a spark for the team. We were down, 4-1. I tried to get something going. It was unfortunate the way it turned out. I knew for sure I would get [suspended] a couple [games] just the way things were going, our reputation.

"I'm not going to put my team and the organization in this situation again. No one wants to hurt anybody. No one wants to get suspended. . . . We want to finish our checks but no cheap shots."

Said Holmgren, "I talked to Riley after the game. It wasn't the smartest thing to do."

No club in the NHL this season has been hit with as many suspensions as the Flyers. Campbell has the authority to fine Holmgren, coach John Stevens and the entire organization if he sees a pattern.

So fsr, the Flyers have incurred 52 man games lost due to suspension this season. Here are the other four:

Scott Hartnell was suspended two games on Nov. 27 for a dangerous hit to Boston Andrew Alberts, who was kneeling on the ice.

Randy Jones was suspended two games on Oct. 2 for hitting Boston's Patrice Bergeron during a chase for the puck. Bergeron suffered multiple injuries, including a Grade III concussion that has prevented him from playing since.

Jesse Boulerice was suspended a league-record 25 games on Oct. 19 for cross-checking Vancouver's Ryan Kesler across the neck.

Steve Downie was suspended 20 games on Sept. 25 for a leaping shoulder hit to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond during an preseason game.

Emotions are running high on the Flyers. At today's practice, there was a brief fight between Danny Briere and Sami Kapanen.

"I always felt if players got their backs up in practice it was a good thing," Holmgren said.

Briere said the players had a team meeting today morning about the Flyers' sloppy, inconsistent play, and a lot of raw emotions came to the surface then spilled onto the ice.

"It was battling drill. . . . He gave me a shot. It wasn't much out there," Briere said. "We're obviously not happy with the way we are bouncing up and down. Sometimes things like that happen. You always see it happen a few times a year."

Kapanen agreed.

"It's just frustration at the way we played the last game," he said. "Going into practice, everybody is a little tense. Things are not going the way we want at home. I'm probably frustrated the way I played myself. It's a little more frustration at home."