Malkin's elbow, check on Cooke unlikely to produce suspensions, fines from league
October 10, 2011 4:00 AM
Ian Jackson/The Canadian Press
The Edmonton Oilers' Magnus Paajarvi, left, is defended by Kris Letang in first period Sunday in Edmonton.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
EDMONTON, Alberta -- The NHL has not been shy about lashing out against illegal shots to the head, but it appears two players involved in hard hits Saturday night have escaped suspensions.
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin got an elbowing call for a first-period hit on Calgary's Lee Stempniak, but he did not have a hearing with the NHL and will not be suspended.
In the second period, Flames defenseman Cory Sarich left Penguins winger Matt Cooke doubled over briefly but was not penalized.
Sarich had not heard from the NHL before leaving Sunday with the Flames to travel to St. Louis for a game tonight, an indication that the league will not punish him.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma agreed with the NHL's stance, although he said he had incomplete information on Malkin's hit, which happened in the left corner in the Flames end.
"I've had a chance to see the replay of Evgeni Malkin's penalty, and I think it's tough to really see much of what really happens," he said before the Penguins' game Sunday night against Edmonton at Rexall Place. "Obviously, the finish is high and we get an elbowing call, which is probably an appropriate call.
"But as far as the hit, it's tough to see what it really looked like from the angle that the TV provided."
Sarich caught Cooke with a shoulder-first body check in open ice. Cooke left the game to go through the NHL protocol for concussion evaluation but was cleared to return for the third period.
"[That hit] was a hard hit on a guy right in his chest," Bylsma said. "It was a pretty hard hit, and a pretty good hit, I think."
After that game, Cooke had a sore right jaw.
"He hit me right in the chin," Cooke said, but he did not specifically call for NHL action.
"The league does a good job at making decisions," he said. "I trust that they'll do the right thing."
Sarich, with a grin, called Cooke's third-period return "an amazing recovery."
"I was just coming over," Sarich said. "I was actually trying to get a little lower. I was pushing off trying to put something into the hit. I don't know. It didn't look too exciting to me. He made it look more exciting than it really was."
Calgary coach Brent Sutter defended Sarich's hit.
"That's a hit we don't want to take out of the game," he said. "That's not an intentional hit to the head. It's a clean check. It's a shoulder. [Cooke] is coming across. You want your [defenemen] to finish their checks."
League senior vice president Brendan Shanahan, in his first year as discipline czar, made it clear in the preseason that he has no tolerance for illegal hits to the head. He issued nine suspensions, eight of them for head hits, and circulated videos each time with an explanation. He also issued videos of hits that were reviewed but deemed legal.
Cooke is familiar with the NHL suspension procedures. He has been suspended five times for illegal hits, including one last season that cost him the final 10 games of the regular season plus the Penguins' seven-game series loss to Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs.
The crackdown on head shots began before Penguins captain Sidney Crosby began his long journey back from an early January concussion, but it seems as if it picked up steam because the game's biggest marquee name has been out for an extended time.
Crosby skated again Sunday. He has not been cleared for contact, but that could be coming soon. Crosby reiterated that he expects to be evaluated by medical staff after coming home from the season-opening road trip.
There was a scoring change on the Penguins' first goal of a 5-3 victory Saturday at Calgary. Pascal Dupuis was given an assist, to go along with the assist Jordan Staal earned on Tyler Kennedy's goal at 1:04 of the second period.
The Penguins' day off scheduled for today came at a logical time after the team opened the season with three games in four days in western Canada and now must acclimate back to the Eastern time zone.
But the timing works out in another way. The day off also happens to come on Columbus Day in the United States and Thanksgiving in Canada.