Hard-nosed Penguins winger Matt Cooke pushes things physically on the ice, but he and coach Dan Bylsma adopted the same philosophy regarding Cooke's four-game suspension: acceptance.
"It's the league's decision. They assess every hit and every play. That's their ruling," a stoic Cooke said Thursday of the discipline handed down to him by the NHL for his hit from behind Tuesday that sent Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin face-first into the boards.
"They look at those hits and have rules in place and deemed [it right to issue] a pretty substantial penalty for Matt, which we're going to accept," Bylsma added.
Cooke began serving the suspension Thursday night when the Penguins played the Los Angeles Kings at Consol Energy Center.
He is eligible to return Feb. 20 for a game at Chicago.
He long has been one of the more prolific hitters in the league and has been called a dirty or dangerous player by some. Asked if his reputation might have affected whether he got suspended or the length of it, he said, "No comment.
"I'm glad that no one was hurt. It wasn't my intention to put him into the boards violently. He played the rest of the game and played [since]."
Cooke said in consultation with Bylsma, he has altered his game to avoid the type of hits to the head covered in the NHL's new Rule 48 -- adopted at least in part because of a hit by Cooke that left Boston's Marc Savard with a severe concussion.
But his suspension was for a different sort of hit, one for which Cooke hinted Tyutin bore some responsibility.
"From my standpoint as a guy who is physical on the ice, guys are trying to be physical with me," Cooke said.
"I know who's on the ice, and I'm responsible for myself. I'm not going to leave myself in a vulnerable position two feet from the boards when I know someone's coming."
Cooke said he has gotten strong support from everyone in the Penguins organization and his family.
"Matt Cooke for us is a physical player," Bylsma said.
"It's how we want to play the game as a team, and he's a big part of that. He's a guy who's added to us being a successful team. He's going to continue to be a physical part of our team when he does get back in the lineup."
Penguins All-Star forward Evgeni Malkin had what Bylsma called "successful surgery" to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee. Team physician Charles Burke performed the operation.
Malkin, injured last Friday in a collision with Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers, is expected to need a six-month recovery period, with the hope he will be healthy for the start of 2011-12 training camp.
Although Malkin has missed games and been limited by injuries and illness, his 37 points in 43 games still would have made him the leading scorer or co-leader on four clubs going into Thursday.
Bylsma said winger Chris Kunitz, who missed his second game because of an undisclosed injury, has been downgraded from day to day to needing close to a week to return. ... Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi, part of the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup team, on Consol Energy Center compared with Mellon/Civic Arena: "This place is beautiful. I didn't recognize it. There's no leaks. I didn't know where I was." ... The Penguins wore their new alternate blue jerseys for the first time since they made their debut in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic. ... The Kings were playing the third game of a 10-game road stretch, although they got to go home after a 4-3 win at Calgary. The Grammy Awards and the NBA All-Star Game have commandeered Staples Center.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published February 11, 2011 5:30 AM