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NHL hits Flyers F Boulerice with 25-game suspension

NHL.com @NHL

VOORHEES, N.J. (AP) -Philadelphia forward Jesse Boulerice was suspended 25 games by the NHL on Friday for cross-checking Vancouver's Ryan Kesler across the face, the second Flyer in three weeks to receive a ban of at least 20 games.

Boulerice's vicious hit came late in Philadelphia's 8-2 win over Vancouver on Wednesday night. After some pushing and shoving, Boulerice caught an unsuspecting Kesler across the face with his stick, leaving the Canucks forward lying motionless on the ice. He eventually got up and skated to the bench on his own.

"We're by no means condoning what happened," Flyers coach John Stevens said after Friday's practice. "He's going to have to stand up and pay the price."

Flyers rookie Steve Downie was suspended 20 games by the NHL last month for leaving his feet to deliver a deliberate and dangerous hit to the head Ottawa's Dean McAmmond.

The Flyers, once known as the Broad Street Bullies, have quickly established an unwanted identity as a team full of out-of-control goons.

"It's almost implied that's the direction we're going when it couldn't be further from the truth," Stevens said.

Boulerice received a match penalty for intent to injure and Kesler called for a 20-game suspension.

"There's nothing good that comes out of an incident like that," Stevens said.

The 23-year-old center practiced Thursday and expected to play Friday when the Canucks faced the Oilers in Edmonton. The swelling in Kesler's right lip and jaw had subsided, but he still had some red marks on his face.

Boulerice said after the game he was sorry for the hit.

"I reacted in a bad way, the wrong way," he said.

Boulerice was charged with assault to do great bodily harm less than murder in 1998 while playing for the OHL after a violent stick swinging incident. He pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of aggravated assault.

The Ontario Hockey League suspended Boulerice for one year because of the incident. But he played the next season in the AHL and was instead ruled ineligible to play until mid-November.

"Whatever happened in Jesse's head triggered something," Flyers forward Mike Knuble said. "For the most part, players don't want to see players going after each other with sticks in the face. That's not the game we're trying to promote."

The Flyers (2-1) play their home opener against the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

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