Let's make it perfectly clear: Flyers left winger Riley Cote is a fighter, not a playmaker.
That's why he could go scoreless for nine-plus months and
be a valuable member of the Flyers.
Much like Dave Schultz in the Stanley Cup years of far too many yesterdays, Cote changes a game's momentum with his fists.
Heck, he was named one of the game's three stars last season because he won a fight over Ottawa's Brian McGrattan - who was apparently trying to avenge a preseason hit given by Steve Downie - that sparked the Flyers to a win.
On Tuesday, Cote also energized the Flyers and got them out of a 2-0 hole against the New York Islanders.
Only this time, it was his slick pass, not his fists, that engineered a comeback.
may never have been written in the same sentence before.
Sort of like
OK, I'm stretching the truth a little about Cote's pass being the main reason he was selected as the No. 2 star in the Flyers' 4-3 comeback win over the lowly-but-pesky Islanders.
Besides the pass, his stinging check on the Islanders' Jon Sim (Cote's former Phantom teammate) preceded his pass that set up Arron Asham's goal.
Cote, 26, had been scoreless in 31 straight games before he picked up the assist and triggered the comeback.
"Just trying to get the boys going," Cote said. "If it isn't a fight or big hit, you just try to get a good cycle shift."
Two nights later, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Cote tried to energize the Flyers again as they fell behind the Carolina Hurricanes. He had Casey Borer lined up for a hard check and. . . .
Oops. Borer moved out of the way. Cote, unable to stop, crashed into the boards. He bruised his hip and shoulder and didn't return to the ice. (He later said the injuries were minor.) Cote was on the bench when the Flyers overcame a 5-1 third-period deficit and scored a 6-5 shoot-out win - their greatest late-game comeback victory in the franchise's 41-season history.
"We just turned it on, and the boys on the bench were positive and optimistic we'd come back," said Cote, who grew up admiring hard-nosed players such as Tie Domi.
Playing in the Western Hockey League early in his career, Cote scored 28 goals in one season. But the more he advanced, the more his role became defined: Policeman on ice.
"I always played with a chip on my shoulder," he said.
In his first two years with the AHL Phantoms, Cote had a combined seven goals and 539 penalty minutes.
Cote has an identity and he's proud of it. When he inspects a score sheet after a game, he first looks at the number of hits he recorded.
"I've accepted what I am. I'm an energy guy, enforcer," he said. "Obviously, it's nice to chip in a goal or two. But when I go out there, there are times when I could probably make a play and I [instead] choose a soft chip in the corner to make a big hit because that's my job. I've got limited minutes to work with, so for me to go out and expect to score a lot of goals is not going to happen."
Flyers coach John Stevens also coached Cote with the Phantoms.
"His character and attitude are probably the reasons he's here more than anything else," Stevens said.
Cote showed character - and a softer side - when he assumed a big-brother role to teammate Luca Sbisa earlier this season. He had the 18-year-old defenseman live with him and his wife for about two months.
Cote may not have as much talent as enforcer-in-training Josh Gratton, who filled in admirably when Cote missed 12 games this year with a torn muscle in his side. But don't underestimate his value. He is one of the club's leaders - a hard-working, team-first player whom his teammates respect because of the way he looks out for them.
"He's part of the glue that holds it all together," Stevens said.
Around the locker room, Cote is a favorite.
"Guys appreciate what he does for them," Stevens said. "He knows his role and the guys know how important his role is. He's as much a part of our hockey team as anybody else."