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Flyers put on notice after Cote suspended 3 games

PHILADELPHIA -- 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.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and disciplinarian Colin Campbell
told Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren on Monday that five
suspension-worthy incidents are plenty.

"One or two things can happen, even three, but five? Gary and I
felt it was time to address it with Paul and say, 'You have to
address this with your players, with your team.'" Campbell said by
phone from Toronto.

The latest penalty handed down against the Flyers focused on forward Riley Cote. He was
suspended for three games for using his elbow to strike Dallas
forward Matt Niskanen into the boards in the third period of the
Stars' 4-1 win on Saturday.

The suspensions have ranged from two games to 25, only so far
the organization has been immune from any additional punishment.

"Obviously, we're under watch,"
Holmgren said.

Holmgren said he talked with the Flyers about the league's
concerns.

"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.

"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.

"I think five incidents in the first quarter of the season is
probably high. It's unprecedented," Campbell said. "Are we saying
the coach or the general manager have instructed the players to
play this way and be more physical? Not at all. But there has to be
some responsibility or accountability at some point in time on the
coach, GM or organization."

Campbell declined to say exactly what kind of penalties the
Flyers could face if another hearing is needed.

The NHL's threat of severe discipline could include a fine, suspension of coaches, or a combination of both, sources told ESPN.com.

Much like the other suspended four who pleaded their case before
Campbell, 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, who leads the Flyers in penalty minutes with 61, was given a match penalty for the hit. He will miss games
Wednesday at Minnesota and Friday at Colorado.

"There were too many aspects of what we don't want in that
hit," Campbell said. "They have to understand this wasn't an
accidental play."

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.

While a pair of 20-game suspensions might scare some teams into
changing their conduct, the Flyers kept on going with their sticks
and arms high.

"You'd think there'd be all kinds of signs," Campbell said.

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. Daniel 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."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.