Richards not rising to Ruff's bait

Buffalo Sabres' Paul Gaustad chases Philadelphia Flyers' Mike Richards. (REUTERS/Doug Benz)

Buffalo Sabres' Paul Gaustad chases Philadelphia Flyers' Mike Richards. (REUTERS/Doug Benz)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

VORHEES, N.J. -- Mike Richards bit his tongue so hard, you could almost see the trickles of blood oozing out the side of his mouth.

Less than 24 hours after he announced to the entire hockey world that the Buffalo Sabres are getting away "with murder," the hard-nosed, controversial captain of the Philadelphia Flyers had just been informed that opposing coach Lindy Ruff had accused his team of being a bunch of "whiners."

"That's fine, that's fine," Richards replied on Thursday, a wry grin splashed on his face. "We're focused on (Friday) night.

"(Ruff) seems to have a way with the media. He does this, I think, every time they're in the playoffs. We're just focused on (tonight), getting a good start and getting our licks in on some of their good players and not worry about the other stuff."

Richards looked like he wanted to say more. Much more. And you can bet out on the ice come Game 5 on Friday night, he will.

Puck, after all, is a four-letter word.

For the time being, however, he said more than enough.

The bottom line: When Richards said his team is going to get its "licks in" on Buffalo's elite performers, that's another way of stating that a number of Sabres will have a target on their respective chests when the two teams clash helmets at the Wells Fargo Center with this suddenly volatile first-round matchup even at two games apiece.

Richards even produced some of the names on the Flyers hit list.

Tim Connolly. Thomas Vanek. You get the idea.

Keep this in mind: Like him or not, Richards is one of the fiercest competitors in the game. He was once accused by a television broadcaster of "hitting to hurt." No argument here.

Of course, that was the same description once used to describe former great Scott Stevens, a guy with three Stanley Cup rings and a plaque in a Hall of Fame. Seemed to work for him.

In retrospect, to really understand how bitter this series is really becoming, consider how peeved off Kimmo Timonen has become with the Sabres.

We're not talking Mike Richards here. This is the same Kimmo Timonen who had just 36 penalty minutes in 82 games this season. Doesn't actually conjure up images of Dave Schultz or Don Saleski, does he?

Yet, there was Timonen, standing in the middle of the Flyers room on Thursday, vowing that his team would inflict twice as many hits on the Sabres in Game 5 as it did in any other single contest in this series, which suddenly has developed some delicious spice.

For his part, Timonen suggested that he is sick and tired of taking the Sabres crap. Whether he has a legitimate beef, well, he'll find much more support for his stance here in Philly than he will up in Buffalo.

Timonen feels he has been speared at least five times by the Sabres' Nathan Gerbe.

"Some things happen after the whistle and I usually don't get mad, but once things get out of control, hitting from behind, hitting to the hands, hitting after the whistle to your calves, those are things I can't take," Timonen said. "Sometimes, you get emotional about it."

Is this part of the "whining" Ruff is alluding to? Or does the veteran Flyers defenceman have a legitimate beef?

It's really developed into a "He said, she said" situation between these two teams, hasn't it?

A war of sticks and gloves on the ice, a war of words off it.

Schultz and Saleski would be proud.


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