PHILADELPHIA – People from around the league are looking forward to tonight's Panthers-Flyers game and it ain't because of the hockey.
The two teams are playing for the first time since Flyers captain Mike Richards flattened David Booth with an open-ice hit on Oct. 24 at Wachovia Center. Booth was knocked unconscious by the blow and was carted off the ice on a stretcher.
Booth suffered a major concussion from the hit, one he is just now recovering from. Booth was back in Philadelphia on Monday; while his team skated on the ice, he was doing sprints in the hallway by the locker room.
Florida brought up enforcer Steve MacIntyre and fourth-line hitter Mike Duco from the minors on Monday in expectation that the Flyers’ might continue to take runs at players.
This could get fun.
“You don’t want to make more of it than what it is: This is a tough team and this is a tough place to play,’’ coach Pete DeBoer said before the game. “We have some toughness in the lineup and that allows the other guys a chance to play. .-.-. If they’re not in the lineup, teams sometimes feel they can take liberties with your players.
“It’s nice to have those guys here, but this isn’t a retribution game or a WWF rematch, cagematch.’’
In the moments following Florida’s loss here in October, players like Bryan McCabe and Keith Ballard expressed a disappointment that the Panthers didn’t do much of anything to extract some revenge for Booth. But at the time, DeBoer explains, the Panthers heads were somewhere else.
Richards was not suspended for the hit on Booth, but was assessed a litany of penalties during the game.
The Panthers were trailing 3-1 at the time, and chose to try and score during the long power play that ensued rather than go head hunting. The Panthers had two other players hurt by the Flyers in that game as Radek Dvorak injured his knee and Dominic Moore broke his nose.
“There was a lot of shock that night,’’ DeBoer said. “Everyone’s main concern was with David. It wasn’t like your star player got run and he limped off. This guy was carted off on a stretcher. No one really knew. I don’t hold anyone accountable for their reaction. We didn’t know how bad it was.’’
On tonight: "Everyone knows what happened out there.''
(*) Center Kamil Kreps (ribs, shoulder) did not play again Monday and is day-to-day. He’s been out since being rammed into the boards just as the door to the Panthers bench opened last Wednesday.
“It’s up to him and his pain tolerance,’’ DeBoer said about Kreps’ return.
Kreps, Booth and Cory Stillman are on the trip, with Stillman practicing with the team during Monday’s morning skate. Stillman is expected back Dec. 27.
(*) DeBoer on the struggling Flyers: "I don't know [what their problem is]. We have our own problems. People in glass houses don't throw stones. We're worried about our own team and glad they're having some issues.''