We haven’t seen Matt Cooke on the ice for the Minnesota Wild since Game 3 against the Colorado Avalanche in Round 1. His knee-on-knee hit on Tyson Barrie earned him a seven-game suspension, a ban that ended with Tuesday night’s Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Cooke will likely re-enter the Wild lineup on Friday night as they look to even the series.
While he sat for seven games, Cooke skated in the mornings, then donned a suit and headed to the press box for a stressful couple of hours as a fan.
“Last couple of weeks I think I’ve earned myself an ulcer watching games,” he joked Wednesday.
The last time Cooke had a chance to return from suspension in the playoffs was 2011, but the Pittsburgh Penguins lost Game 7 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round, which was the last game of his 17-game ban for elbowing Ryan McDonagh in the head. Had it not been for Nino Neiderreiter’s heroics, Cooke would have again been forced to wait all summer to come back, and this time sit out the opening three games of next season.
Despite going three years without a suspension, the Barrie incident gave fuel for those who scoffed at the “rehabilitated” stories that came out during that period. As we wrote here, Cooke can still be a changed played and also someone capable of a boneheaded hit. Will this latest relapse cause him to alter his game in anyway?
“I’ve got to go back to the work that I’ve put in to this point,” said Cooke, “video-wise, game-wise, mental-wise to put myself in a position for success. Although this one situation happened, I still believe and know that I’m in a good spot as the way that I approach the game to go out and play a physical style without being riskful.”
Cooke said the Barrie hit will still be in his mind when he returns, but he still firmly believes in everything he’s done over the last three years to help clean his act up. He’d also rather expend his energy focusing on that than attempting to change the opinions of his critics.
“People are entitlted to their opinions,” Cooke said. “Everyone’s going to have them. It’s not my job to go out and change people’s opinions. It’s my job to go out and play the way that I can be successful and help my teammates win.
“That’s my job.”
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