Briere 'probable;' Cote vs. Downie?

   When they play host to Rick Tocchet-coached Tampa Bay Tuesday, the Flyers could have their top 12 forwards together for the first time since early November.

   Danny Briere, who has missed the last nine games with a groin injury, says he is "probable" to return to the lineup, and left wing Riley Cote is expected to return from a torn oblique, an injury that sidelined him for 12 games.

   Cote, the club's enforcer, and former Flyer Steve Downie could be on the ice together, making for some intriguing possibilities.

    When Downie played with the Flyers, he became friends with Cote. They even took a mixed martial-arts class together and still phone one another.

    For 60 minutes Tuesday, however, they won’t be discussing the good times when Downie and the Lighting face the Flyers at the Wachovia Center.

   Downie was recently recalled by the Lighting from the AHL, where he had been suspended for three games because of a dangerous hit.

    Downie, traded to

Tampa with Steve Eminger in the Nov. 7 deal that brought Matt Carle to the Flyers, has a history of being suspended, whether it was in juniors, the NHL or the AHL.


Cote was asked about facing Downie.

    “If he’s acting up, you deal with it,” he said after today's practice in Voorhees. “For the most part, just let him know you’re out there and keep him honest. If something needs to be done, it’s done. But I don’t think we’re going to go into the game worrying about it. He’ll play his game and we’re going to play our game.”


Cote says he watches replays of “every NHL fight” in the morning.

     “It’s my job on the team _ to stick up for my teammates, and turn games around with momentum.” he said.


Cote ’s return, Josh Gratton is expected to be sent to the AHL Phantoms.

    “Grats has done a great job; he stepped in and did what he does best,”

Cote said. “He’s a physical player and he had some good fights.”


Cote said he wouldn’t intentionally instigate a fight Tuesday.

   “I’m just going to get back to my game, which is playing physical. I’m going to try to get the puck in the corner and create a big hit,” he said. “If a fight comes, it comes.  I definitely would like to get one out of the way just to get back in the swing of things, but I’m not going to go out of my way and put myself before the team, by any means.”

    As for Downie,

Cote said he respects his former teammate.

    “Downs plays with a chip on his shoulder, no question, and that’s a great thing,”

Cote said. “He goes out and plays hard. And I don’t think any of us spend any time worrying about what he’s going to do….If he wants to prove a point, we’ll prove a point back.”

    * * * * * *

    Briere  is cautiously optimistic that he’ll return to the lineup Tuesday.

    “It’s looking better and better,” Briere said. “I don’t want to say for sure….I got excited like that the past few games, and the next day when I showed up at the rink it wasn’t feeling good. It was feeling pretty good today and I’m probable, I guess.”

    If Briere does play, he won't return on the top line with Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble. Those wingers are doing well with Mike Richards, and coach John Stevens doesn’t want to break up the high-scoring line.

     If Briere plays, he would probably center Joffrey Lupul and Andreas Nodl, said Stevens, adding that Jeff Carter would center Scott Hartnell and Scottie Upshall.

    _ Sam Carchidi