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Physical play not bothering Timonen

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- The logo on the front of the Flyers jersey is a puck with wings connoting flight. But for Kimmo Timonen, it might as well be a bull's-eye.

Because for the first three games of the Flyers' Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Timonen has been squarely in the Pens' crosshairs.

The hitting started when Chris Kunitz leveled Timonen on the first shift of the series; 11 seconds into Game 1, Kunitz's knee connected with Timonen's left thigh, leaving Philadelphia's All-Star blueliner with a charley horse that affected him the rest of the night.

He was hit a series-high six times in Game 2, and Game 3 started with Kunitz throwing a flying elbow at Timonen's head about five minutes into the first period. Having seen enough, Scott Hartnell chased Kunitz around the ice and got a few punches in before the officials broke up the fight.

That didn't stop Kunitz, or the rest of the Penguins, from hitting Timonen at every opportunity. According to the official play-by-play sheets, he's been hit 12 times in the first three games, and there hasn't been a penalty called on any of them.

"I think you want to make good, clean checks on guys and that's the kind of thing that wears over a series," Kunitz said. "The checks you keep making may cause a turnover later in the game.

"He plays the majority of their minutes. We're not going to pass up any body checks on anybody, doesn't matter who it is."

When asked if he feels he's being specifically targeted, Timonen briskly said, "Nope. Next one (question)," and he also didn't blame Kunitz for the high elbow, saying it was more of him being in a bad position than a dirty hit.

"I was reaching for the puck and I saw him coming, but there was nothing I could do about it," Timonen said. "That's playoff hockey. It happens."

Despite the pounding, Timonen played a team-high 26:36 in Game 3, and is averaging nearly 24 minutes per game in the series.

"He's a tough guy," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "He's been around a long time. He can withstand that kind of punishment because he's usually getting out of the way or giving a little bit of room and not taking the brunt of (the hits). But he certainly took the brunt of it there (Kunitz's elbow), and I thought we responded in a good way. I thought Kimmo came back and had a strong game."

Outside of dropping the mitts, the Flyers said the answer to the Penguins' targeting of Timonen is to do the same to the Pittsburgh's elite players.

"Maybe get in their way a little more, but with the way they're calling things, we're liable to get interference calls if we do that," Jeff Carter said. "It's no secret Kimmo is our leader back there. It's the same when we go out against (Sidney) Crosby and (Sergei) Gonchar and (Evgeni) Malkin, we're going to go out there and hit them."

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