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Matt Cooke gets in-person hearing with NHL after knee-on-knee hit

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild
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Apr 21, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Colorado Avalanche forward Cody McLeod (55) talks with Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke (24) during the first period in game three of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

The last time Matt Cooke was suspended by the NHL was March 2011, and it was a doozy: 10 games plus the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins, a total of 17 games for elbowing Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers.

Since then, he’s been a model citizen; OK, at least from a Dept. of Player Safety sense.

There was that hit on Adam McQuaid from the Boston Bruins that had some saying he should be banned from the NHL. And that unfortunate slicing of Erik Karlsson’s Achilles that led to Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk’s preposterous CSI investigation of the incident. 

But on Monday night in the Minnesota Wild’s Game 3 win against the Colorado Avalanche … oops, he did it again:

That blatant knee-on-knee hit ended the night for Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie, whose MCL injury will have him shelved for 4-to-6 weeks.

It also put Cooke back on the supplemental discipline docket.

From the NHL:

Cooke was offered the opportunity for an in-person hearing as required by provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for any suspension that can exceed five games. At 2:02 of the third period, Cooke extended his knee as Barrie had just passed the puck leaving his own zone. Cooke received a minor penalty for kneeing.

“We lost our best offensive defenseman, and I think it could have been a five-minute major. Plus, I think that would have broken their momentum,” said Avs coach Patrick Roy. “I’m sure the league will make the right call. We’re very confident they will make the right call.’’

Cooke has been suspended six times by the NHL for 32 games, which includes seven playoff games. Since his last suspension was over 18 months ago, he won’t be considered a “repeat offender” when it comes to the financial penalties he’ll receive from the NHL. However, his suspension history will be considered in the decision on games lost.

Even without his suspension history, the play itself would warrant a lengthy ban. It was a deliberate kneeing on Barrie, and Cooke injured a key player for the Avalanche, as Barrie was their best offensive defenseman and second in ice time through two games.

All of this points to a significant suspension for Cooke, who will have the option to appeal anything six games or greater.

The guess? Eight playoff games would be reasonable. The rest of this series and an additional four if the Wild advance; if not, then at the start of next season. Would it surprise us to see the NHL crush Cooke with an 11-game suspension (this round plus a hypothetical seven games in the following round)? Not at all.

There’s a lot of shame to go around here for Cooke, but here’s another bit of it: He was one of the Wild’s best players in their Game 3 win, possessing the puck and getting the Avalanche off their game with frequent liberties taken. He played with an edge. But since he went over it, there’s a chance he won’t play again for the Wild in the postseason.

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