(Voorhees, NJ) – With so many positives surrounding the Flyers these days, it can be easy to overlook the contributions of players that may not be lighting up the scoreboard but are important to the team’s success, nonetheless.
The perfect example of that came during the club’s 6-1 victory over Ottawa on Sunday night at the Wachovia Center. With Philadelphia leading 1-0, the Senators’ Brian McGrattan and the Flyers’ Riley Cote dropped the gloves for a bare-knuckle battle that was a couple of games in the making. The two could even be seen jawing at one another during warm-ups.
Philadelphia rookie Steve Downie was facing the Senators for the first time since his preseason hit on Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond, which resulted in a 20-game suspension to start the year. With the kind of tension that a rematch like this produces, there is extra pressure on certain players to make sure that liberties aren’t taken against their teammates and things do not get too out of hand.
Cote controlled the fight from the start to the end: the end, being a left hook that caught McGrattan squarely on the jaw and sent the heavyweight flat to his backside. Adding to the bruised ego and sore jaw, McGrattan suffered a shoulder injury in the bout that kept him out of the remainder of the game.
|Flyers forward Riley Cote battles with New Jersey's Arron Asham earlier this season. (Getty Images) |
As for Downie, he went unchallenged for the duration of the game.
“The opportunity was there for me to fight [McGrattan], and just with the whole Steve Downie thing, I wanted to set the tone early and make sure that ‘Downs’ was feeling comfortable and didn’t have to worry about anything else,” said Cote on Monday morning.
To say that Cote works hard away from the rink is an understatement. After getting his feet wet last season with eight NHL games, there was certainly no guarantee that he would find his way onto the retooled Flyers roster this season. He worked on his skating, his strength, and of course his fighting, taking mixed martial arts classes
when he wasn’t working out at the team’s training facility.
“He’s been, I don’t want to say a surprise, but a great player to have with us this year,” said Simon Gagne. “I know he worked very hard this summer to get stronger physically.”
“He’s such a positive guy and a great guy to have in the room,” added Scott Hartnell
. “He works so hard on and off the ice. He’s a smart fighter and knows what to look for. That guy was a bigger guy than him, but he just threw his punches and connected on a couple. It really got us going.”
Cote came to the Flyers organization as a free agent for the 2004-05 season. He joined the Philadelphia Phantoms early in the year, and was a key contributor to the Calder Cup Championship squad in 2005. In 61 games, he had four goals and seven assists for 11points to go along with a healthy total of 280 penalty minutes.
While his penalty minutes alone would be enough to make him a fan favorite, his friendly and gentlemanly behavior also endeared him to the Flyers’ and Phantoms’ faithful. Couple that with his extremely hard work ethic, and it appears Cote is in the perfect locale to further his career.
“He’s a guy you love to talk about because he’s paid his dues and done everything in his power to get better,” said John Stevens, who coached Cote when both were with the Phantoms. “He’s got the kind of attitude you love in a player, and is the kind of guy you root for.
|Scott Hartnell and Steve Downie celebrate a goal on January 10 in New York. (Getty Images) |
“Certainly, it’s very gratifying to see a kid that has worked so hard be rewarded with an opportunity to play in the NHL and see a guy that’s so happy to be where he is as he continues to try and get better. He brings so many things to our team with his presence and his attitude.”Hartnell earns NHL honor – again
Flyers winger Scott Hartnell
was named as the league’s Third Star of the Week on Monday. It is the second straight week Hartnell has been Third Star. In his last seven games, Hartnell has 10 goals and four assists, including two hat tricks.
Although the honor is nice, Hartnell is much more satisfied with the performance of the team lately, as the Flyers are 10-1-1 in their last 12 games.
“We’re all been playing well in here and we’re all getting points. It’s just a pretty exciting feeling in this dressing room right now,” he said.
“The puck seems to find him wherever he is right now, and he’s making good on the opportunities that he gets,” said Stevens. “It’s nice to see.”
Stevens announced that Antero Niittymaki will start in net against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Martin Biron will play in the final game before the All-Star break on Thursday against the Penguins (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). … The Flyers did not skate on Monday. Instead, they opted for a team meeting and a bike ride.