Cote's call to arms

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

If the Pennsylvania Turnpike is about to turn into a highway of bad blood, as some suspect, Winnipeg's Riley Cote would be only too happy to take a drive on it.

A 6-foot-1, 210-pound winger, Cote is the resident enforcer for the Philadelphia Flyers. Only he's enforced relatively little in these Stanley Cup playoffs, inactive since Philadelphia's first-round win over Washington.

But with the Flyers about to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, that may be about to change.

The Pens and Philly aren't exactly neighbourly in-state rivals, and neither one minds the rough stuff.

"I wouldn't say there's hatred or anything," Cote was saying from Philadelphia yesterday. "But you see the same team so many times, it kind of wears on you. The stuff that drives you crazy, you're not just seeing it once or twice, you're seeing it eight times a year. We've had some battles with them.

"We've definitely got to approach them a lot different than the Canadiens."

In other words, a face-wash here, a jab in the back of the head there and plenty of playing the body.

Cote's 202 penalty minutes this season included a pair of tilts with Pittsburgh's Georges Laraque, probably the most respected heavyweight in the game.

After the second one, early last month, Laraque told reporters how much he respected Cote, which was, admittedly, a bit of a thrill for a 26-year-old rookie trying to make a name for himself.

Cote had his helmet knocked off in the scrap, but he has his head on pretty straight about how much of an impact he can have in the playoffs.

"The playoffs is not about making a name for yourself, fighting-wise," he said. "It's more than that. Get on the forecheck, wear out the defencemen and just keep guys honest.

"I can definitely play the game. I wasn't a meatball my whole life. In juniors I put up some decent numbers. But I've accepted my role. I can be responsible and I can skate. You can't play in the NHL if you can't skate."

Cote's career sure took a few strong strides this season.

After getting into just eight games a year ago, he played 70 this year, scored his first goal and was co-winner of the Flyers' most-improved-player award, likely earning him a second contract offer in the near future.

"A huge step for me," Cote said. "To play 70 games and actually dress for, up to now, three playoff games, and hopefully more, that's huge for me. Not too many tough guys get in (playoff) games. I'm definitely going to re-sign here. I just want to go all the way here and win a championship. That's what it's all about."

That the Flyers are just eight wins from the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 33 years is mind-boggling when you consider they finished last overall a year ago.

They weren't even a lock for the playoffs until their second-last game of the season.

"It's unbelievable," Cote said. "I don't think too many people expected us to come this far. We hit a few slumps this season, but we were really good at times, too. We knew we had it in us. We just had to make the playoffs.

"All the guys in the dressing room are fired up. It's been a roller-coaster. A great journey."

One that'll resume Friday on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.


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