Florida called up a pair of physical players from the minors to face the Flyers last night, fueling speculation that there would be retribution to Mike Richards for his hit that gave the Panthers' David Booth a concussion Oct. 24.
Less than four minutes into last night's game, there were two fights, including one between Richards and Bryan McCabe, the captains for each team.
Yes, the Panthers seemed to have payback on their collective minds.
Richards, who was not suspended for the Oct. 24 hit, sent an off-balance McCabe to the ice with a right hand.
The Panthers' pregame moves didn't concern Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.
"We've got some tough players in our locker room," he said before the game. "They can certainly handle themselves. You never know what a game is going to bring. In the end, we want to make sure we win the hockey game."
Laviolette decided to dress enforcer Riley Cote instead of Mika Pyorala.
"It's important we play a very physical game," Laviolette said. "I also think it's important that there's discipline in our game."
Last night was the first time the teams met since Richards flattened Booth with an open-ice hit at the Wachovia Center. Booth was knocked unconscious, and he is not expected to return to action until early or mid-January.
Florida recalled enforcer Steve MacIntyre and Mike Duco for last night's game.
"You don't want to make more of it than what it is: This is a tough team, and this is a tough place to play," Florida coach Pete DeBoer told the Miami Herald before the game. "We have some toughness in the lineup, and that allows the other guys a chance to play. If they're not in the lineup, teams sometimes feel they can take liberties with your players.
"It's nice to have those guys here, but this isn't a retribution game or a WWF rematch, cage match."
The Flyers' Ian Laperriere decisioned Gregory Campbell just 1 minute, 48 seconds into the game. Later in the period, Laperriere and Duco got into a brief fight, with Duco pulling down the Flyers' winger.
For the third straight game, defenseman Braydon Coburn was paired with one of his boyhood idols, Chris Pronger.
For most of the season, Coburn had been paired with Kimmo Timonen, while Pronger was with Matt Carle.
"Chris is a very vocal guy, so making the adjustment to him is pretty easy because the biggest thing with a pairing is communication," Coburn said.
Coburn said Pronger has "a wealth of information; he's been there. He might be the only guy in the room who's won the Stanley Cup."
Pronger makes suggestions on "playing the guy a different way, handling the puck less, anything that he sees," Coburn said. "He's great at pointing it out and making everyone else better."