Penguins Notebook: Laraque respects Flyers' Cote
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Penguins enforcer Georges Laraque hit his Philadelphia counterpart, Riley Cote, with a left so hard that it sent Cote's helmet skidding 60 feet or so across the ice when the two fought early in the Penguins' 4-2 victory Wednesday at Mellon Arena.
Happily for all concerned, Cote wasn't still attached.
But something that Laraque, regarded by many as the NHL's top heavyweight, said afterward might be what really gets Cote's head spinning.
He called Cote, who is listed as being 6 foot 1, 210 pounds, "pound-for-pound ... the toughest guy in the NHL."
Although Laraque's official bio says he is 6 foot 3, 243, he is believed to be considerably heavier, which probably explains why he feels it's "unbelievable" that Cote would take him on without hesitation and do it so aggressively.
"He doesn't back down," Laraque said. "He fights open. He's a lefty, and ... he doesn't hold on. He just goes. It's unreal. I respect him a lot."
It remains to be seen whether the Philadelphia game represented a breakthrough for the Penguins' power play or simply was an aberration.
After going 1 for 17 in the previous three games -- and not looking particularly menacing in any of them -- the Penguins scored on four or six chances with the extra man.
"They have a very dangerous power play," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. "They get that many opportunities, it's not good for us."
Perhaps, but the Penguins' ability to convert their power plays didn't cause the Flyers to abandon the hard-edged style that made all those man-advantages possible.
"The power play responded really well to their lack of discipline," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.
The game Wednesday had the nasty edge found in nearly every Penguins-Flyers game, and the regular-season finale Sunday in Philadelphia figures to, as well. Especially if neither team has anything at stake then.
But, when there is something on the line, as was the case Wednesday, players must guard against losing focus because of the adrenaline surging through them.
"You don't want the emotions to get too carried away," Penguins left winger Ryan Malone said. "We all want to run around and put everybody through the boards, but you have to make sure you stay out of the [penalty] box. I'm sure they'd like to have some of their penalties back."
It went largely unnoticed -- presumably because most attention was focused on the Penguins defeating a bitter rival and clinching the Atlantic Division title -- but forward Adam Hall returned Wednesday after missing 31 games because of a sports hernia that had to be surgically repaired.
He logged six minutes, 18 seconds of ice time, all but 44 seconds of it at even strength.
"I felt good," Hall said. "Everything felt strong, felt good. It just felt so good to get back out there with the guys."
It's safe to assume that Jarkko Ruutu hasn't been one of the Flyers' favorites since he joined the Penguins in 2006, but his stock likely plummeted in the waning minutes of play Wednesday, when he hobbled Flyers center Daniel Briere with what Briere characterized as an knee-on-knee hit.
"I tried to go inside, and he stuck his leg out there," Briere told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I didn't realize it was him coming. Everyone knows he's one of the dirtiest players in the league. If I would have had time to look and see it was him, I would have protected myself better."
First Published April 4, 2008 12:00 am