Penguins Notebook: Cooke, Asham move on
Penguins left winger Matt Cooke: "When you're on an opposing team, you often hate guys, but, given a chance to play with them, you get to know them on a personal level and things are a lot different."
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It was darned near a bear hug, which was significant considering this was Matt Cooke and Arron Asham, two guys who have a contentious past but now are teammates with the Penguins.
The gritty wingers, who were waiting for the weather to clear Thursday for a team golf event at Allegheny Country Club, have crafted a truce, even though they still offer differing accounts of what happened in a third-period scrum Jan. 24 in Philadelphia when Asham was playing for the Flyers. Asham accused Cooke of biting his finger.
"It's something that was in the heat of the game," Asham said. "That's all done with. Stuff happens on the ice ... "
At that point, Cooke interjected, "I didn't bite him."
"No, he didn't bite me, and I'm missing a finger," Asham said, holding up a hand with one bent finger to draw laughs.
Asham had quite a different tone after the game in January, calling Cooke "gutless," "garbage" and "a chicken" and saying Cooke refused an offer to fight.
Cooke shrugged it off nearly eight months later.
"When you're on an opposing team, you often hate guys, but, given a chance to play with them, you get to know them on a personal level and things are a lot different," he said. "I don't see there being any carryover from that incident -- or so-called incident."
Cooke phoned Asham in August when he signed with the Penguins.
"He called and welcomed me to the team," Asham said. "I thought it was pretty funny, but it was good."
Defenseman Brooks Orpik and winger Chris Kunitz, who nursed injuries during the offseason after playing hurt at the end of last season, say they have only a few lingering effects and do not expect to be impaired when the team has its first training camp practices Saturday.
"The longer offseason gave me a chance to rehab and change some mechanics and try to gain back some things with some muscles," said Kunitz, who had a torn groin muscle but did not require surgery.
"Everything seems fine."
Orpik had surgery June 11 to repair a sports hernia. He said he was patient over the summer, working on his core strength and letting things heal.
"My strength is close to normal," Orpik said. "It just takes an extra 20, 30 minutes in the morning to warm it up and get things going."
Having his team come off its longest offseason since 2007 will not alter necessarily the way coach Dan Bylsma approaches the next few weeks.
"Camp now is more congested than previously," he said. "There are challenges with the few days of practice you have before the exhibition [season starts], then you kind of get into the meat of the exhibition [schedule] where you're playing quite a bit."
First Published September 17, 2010 12:00 am