Richards escapes suspension; faceoff problems

  To all those who say the NHL is out to "get" the Flyers _ and there are thousands out there who have that feeling _ you will be surprised that the league Sunday decided not to suspend Flyers captain Mike Richards.

    Richards leveled Florida's David Booth Saturday, knocking him unconscious and sending him to the hospital with a jarring shoulder-to-jaw check in the middle of the ice.

   Replays showed Richards had one skate in the air as he made the hit; it was inconclusive as to whether the other skate was in the air at the time.

   If the NHL deemed both feet were in the air before he made the hit, Richards undoubtedly would have been suspended, but the league agreed with Flyers' general manager Paul Holmgren's assessment _ that Richards left his feet only after contact was made.

    Richards was in the lineup Sunday night in a 4-1 loss to visiting San Jose.

    Flyers exec Bob Clarke said he agreed with the NHL's decision not to suspend Richards _ and disagreed with the five-minute interference call and game misconduct Richards reeived for the hit. Clarke said Richards should not have been penalized; he called it a clean hit and said the only reason Richards was penalized was because the referee felt he had to make a call due to the injury.

    Booth spent the night at Pennsylvania Hospital before being released Sunday morning and returning to Florida; he had no neck damage, a Panthers official said, but suffered a concussion. The Panthers will monitor him closely.

   Blood was on the ice after the violent collision, and Booth was motionless for several minutes.

  The Flyers and Florida don't meet again until Dec. 21, at the Wachovia Center.

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    Think the Flyers will spend extra time at practice Monday working on faceoffs?

    Yep.

    The Flyers won just 23 of 64 faceoffs (36 percent) in Sunday's 4-1 loss to San Jose.Richards was a woeful 4 of 17 (24 percent).

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