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Intensity Evident as Practice Resumes

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Team meets about recent home stretch

(Voorhees, NJ) – Prior to Monday’s skate at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone, Flyers Head Coach John Stevens met with his team to discuss its lack of urgency and intensity in games at the Wachovia Center lately. As good as the Flyers have been on the road this season, their stretch of 0-3-2 in the last five home games has them sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division when they could easily be in first.

“It’s been odd; we play so well and then so poorly,” said Stevens. “We got some input from the players. They’re the ones who play the game, and I think it’s important that we get some feedback from them, have some discussion and air our thoughts about what we’re seeing on the ice, and why.

“We hope to come to some common ground there where we identify the problem and get back to work and be a more consistent hockey team.”

Following that meeting, the intensity on the ice during the ensuing practice was evident and even resulted in a small skirmish between Danny Briere and Sami Kapanen during a drill along the corner boards.

Of course, those things happen from time to time in hockey drills and both players talked things over at center ice following the skate.

“It wasn’t much. It was just a couple pushes back and forth,” said Briere. “I think we’re obviously not happy with the way we’ve been bouncing up and down. Sometimes things like that happen. I’ve been playing for many years and you always see it a few times a year. I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Kapanen also could sense the frustration after the team meeting in which the players watched portions of their 4-1 loss to Dallas on Saturday.

“We had a little meeting today and put everything on the table. Going into the practice everybody was a little ticked with things not going the way we want to at home,” he explained. “I’m probably frustrated with the way I’ve played myself, so when those go together things happen.

“We talked it over after practice, and everything’s fine.”

Stevens himself sees nothing wrong when the competitive juices overflow. The drill in which the punches were thrown between the two was an exercise in which there is a loose puck in the corner and the net is placed in the faceoff circle facing that corner. Body contact and physical play were important in the battle for the puck in such a small area of the ice.

“It’s a game where there’s contact there and I think both guys got a little upset and stood their ground. It was short-lived, and we got back to work and got what we needed out of that drill,” said Stevens.
Flyers forward Riley Cote is the fifth Flyers player to be suspended this season. (Getty Images)

Overall, Stevens saw some positive things from the team as it prepares to face two good Western Conference teams in Minnesota on Wednesday and Colorado on Friday.

“We had good focus today. That’s what we need,” he said.

Cote Suspended Three Games

Flyers forward Riley Cote was suspended for three games as a result of his hit on Dallas’ Matt Niskanen late in the game on Saturday. He is the fifth Flyers player to be suspended this season.

“I think it’s very fair,” said General Manager Paul Holmgren. “In Riley’s case, it was out of character for him. He’s been in our organization for a number of years now and he’s never had an incident like this. I know he feels very bad for it.”

“It’s unfortunate the way it happened, and that I put my team and my organization in this situation,” said Cote, who added that the punishment is about what he expected.

Scott Hartnell, who was suspended for the last two games, will be back in the lineup on Wednesday night in Minnesota. He is bothered with the suspensions and knows that the Flyers could stand to be more careful in certain situations.

“We’re not proud of the suspensions, obviously,” said Hartnell. “You have to be in control of your body and in control of your stick. You just have to play within the rules. It’s a little frustrating losing some key guys like [Randy] Jones, myself, and now Cote who has been a regular and a catalyst for us in the room.

“We just have to use our heads a little bit more.”

Simon Gagne continued to skate with the team, but is wearing the red cross jersey for no contact. … Jason Smith did not skate but should be fine for Tuesday, according to Stevens.
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