PHILADELPHIA (AP) -The Flyers have been warned.
Another dangerous strike, another deliberate blow to the head of an opponent and more than just a player will be a suspended. The NHL is prepared to take severe discipline against the franchise, such as a hefty fine, if another Flyer needs to be punished again for an illegal hit.
"Obviously, we're under watch," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said.
The latest penalty handed down by NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell against the Flyers came Monday. Forward Riley Cote was suspended for three games for a head shot that sent Dallas forward Mat Niskanen into the boards in the third period of the Stars' 4-1 win on Saturday.
Cote, who leads the Flyers in penalty minutes with 61, is the fifth Flyer suspended already this season. The suspensions have ranged from two games to 25, only so far the organization has been immune from any additional punishment. Holmgren said he was warned by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that another incident like the first four could result in stiff consequences.
Holmgren said he addressed the matter with the Flyers.
"We want to play hard, we want to play a physical style, but we want to play within the rules," Holmgren said. "The way it's going, it's going to have to stop."
The cheap-shot hits have made the Flyers wildly unpopular around the league, earning them comparisons to the 1970s-era Broad Street Bullies. Forget the Bullies tag, though. The Broad Street Blockheads are more like it because this team is simply not getting the message that these deliberate and dangerous hits will no longer be tolerated by anyone in the league.
"I talked to Mr. Bettman today and Colie and I think they think like I do, that these are different coincidences, situations that have to be viewed differently," Holmgren said.
They might all seem the same to the unsuspecting players who get their heads spiked into the ice or slammed into the boards.
Much like the suspended four before him, Cote was remorseful and apologized after practice.
"Just the way things are going, our reputation, for my role, I can't afford to have this happen," he said. "It's just unfortunate the way it's happened with our team. (We need to) finish our checks but no cheap shots."
Cote was given a match penalty for the hit. He will miss games Wednesday at Minnesota and Friday at Colorado.
The Flyers will have forward Scott Hartnell back in the lineup against the Wild. Hartnell was suspended two games last week for checking Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Alberts in the head.
In the preseason, Steve Downie was hit with a 20-game ban after a high hit to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond.
Jesse Boulerice was dealt the longest single-season punishment in league history when he earned a 25-game suspension for hitting Vancouver's Ryan Kesler across the face with his stick.
Randy Jones was given a two-game suspension after he sent Boston's Patrice Bergeron face-first into the boards on Oct. 27. Bergeron hasn't returned to action since he broke his nose and sustained a concussion as a result of the hit.
If these hits aren't bad enough, the Flyers are even rumbling with each other. Danny Briere and Sami Kapanen got into a brief skirmish during a practice drill along the corner boards.
Kapanen said the incident was no big deal.
"I think it's just the frustration over the way we played the last game," he said. "We had a little meeting today and brought everything to the table."
The Flyers can only hope those frustrations stay on the practice ice and don't spill over in the games anymore.
"We're not out there to hurt anybody," Cote said. "We're out there to play hard."