Penguins' Cooke not suspended for hit on Bruins' Savard
Penguins forward Matt Cooke injured Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard on a blindside hit in the third period of Sunday's game.
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Maybe, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said, it's fortuitous that winger Matt Cooke came under scrutiny for his hit to the head on Boston's Marc Savard on the eve of the NHL's general managers meetings in Florida.
It's not that Crosby wants to throw Cooke to the wolves -- "We care about him," Crosby said. "He's our teammate." -- but he figured the timing might help spur the NHL to clarify its stance on future such hits and resulting injuries.
"Maybe it's a good thing that the GM meetings were when they are," Crosby said. "There's obviously some confusion as to what's a good hit and what's not a good hit. That's got to be fixed pretty quickly. We've seen it time and time again, and we all debate whether it was a good or a bad hit."
• Game: Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes, 7:08 p.m. today, RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
• TV, radio: ESPN, WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970), FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
• Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Justin Peters for Hurricanes.
• Penguins: Have won four games in row. ... Are 1-1 vs. Carolina. ... Are 10-1-1 in tied after two periods.
• Hurricanes: Are 11-5-2 vs. Penguins at RBC Center. ... Brandon Sutter had 6-game points streak before last night. ... Jussi Jokinen had 15 goals in previous 19 games before last night.
• Hidden stat: Carolina has won its past six games when playing on a second night in a row after starting 0-6-1 in such games.
Cooke's check, which came Sunday in the third period of a 2-1 win against the Bruins, was a legal one in the eyes of the NHL, even though Savard was taken off the Mellon Arena ice on a stretcher and has a Grade 2 concussion.
League officials held a phone hearing with Cooke Wednesday after the Penguins practiced at Southpointe and opted not to suspend him. Cooke is expected to be in the lineup tonight at Carolina.
Colin Campbell, the NHL's chief disciplinarian, said that given the rules and going on the precedent set when Philadelphia's Mike Richards was not suspended for a similar hit on Florida's David Booth earlier this season, he could not suspend Cooke.
"No one likes when a player like Marc Savard goes down the way he did. No one likes when a player like David Booth goes down the way he did. But we have to be consistent," Campbell said. "Right now, our rules say that shoulders-to-head are legal."
That could change.
The league's general managers made a unanimous recommendation Wednesday to adopt this language in the NHL rules:
"A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline."
The recommendation will be forwarded to the NHL and NHL Players Association competition committee and then to the NHL Board of Governors for final approval.
Cooke, who was suspended for two games for a hit to the head of the New York Rangers' Artem Anisimov in a Nov. 28 game, was subdued after practice.
He, too, would like to see the rules on such hits better defined.
"I think there needs to be black-and-white rules because with my hit, technically, in the rule book, I did nothing wrong," said Cooke, who was not penalized in the game for the hit. "No one likes to see anyone get hurt, whether it's your own team or someone else's. It's an unfortunate part of our game with the speed that it's played at now."
Asked about his thoughts on seeing the replay -- something Cooke had not done right after the game -- he said, "I didn't see anything different than the way it happened in the game. I tried to finish my check."
Before Cooke's hearing and the club's flight to Carolina, veteran winger Bill Guerin expected Cooke to get suspended.
"If a guy gets hurt like that with a shot to the head, there's got to be something," Guerin said. "Actions happen. Guys don't mean to hurt each other, but they do. You've got to pay a price for that."
He said team alliances don't matter when it comes to this issue.
"We're all under the same umbrella, whether the guy's on my team and I'm sitting right next to him or he's playing in California somewhere," Guerin said. "It doesn't matter. We're all playing in the same league. We all want the same safety. We all want to be looked after the same way.
"I understand [Cooke] is on my team, but, hey, he's in a tough spot."
Cooke's hit -- and the NHL's decision not to suspend him -- could set up revenge factor next Thursday when the Penguins play in Boston. It won't necessarily be Cooke the Bruins would target, though. Because Savard is arguably his team's best player, a Penguins player such as Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Jordan Staal could be lined up for some heavy hitting.
"If somebody's going to make an attempt to do that, there's probably not much I can do about it," Crosby said. "You're better off playing the game and expecting hits like you always would be. If someone's going to come after you, they're going to come after you.
"But I don't think they're that type of team. I didn't see any effects from that as far as the rest of the game [Sunday] after that happened, and, going into the next one, I'm sure they're going to make sure they're at their best."
Penguins left winger Matt Cooke had been suspended twice before for delivering hard hits on ice:
2 games Check to head of New York Rangers center Artem Anisimov (Nov. 28, 2009)
2 games Hit to head of Carolina Hurricanes forward Scott Walker (Jan. 20, 2009)
First Published March 11, 2010 12:00 am