Cooke hit with four-game suspension
Matt Cooke, left, attempts to backhand a rebound off Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason Tuesday
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What does Ray Shero say to those who insist that Penguins winger Matt Cooke is a dirty player?
"He's a top-nine forward on a real good team," the Penguins general manager said Wednesday. "He's won a Stanley Cup with us. He scores 15 goals year. I think he's a valuable player.
"He plays with an edge, and he plays hard. Is he a borderline dirty player? Yeah. He's not the only one in the league."
Cooke often draws attention and criticism for big hits he lays on opponents. Wednesday, he drew his second suspension as a member of the Penguins -- four games for hitting Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin from behind into the boards in the first period of the 4-1 loss Tuesday to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He will be eligible to return Feb. 20 when the Penguins play at Chicago.
Tyutin was not injured and remained in the game, and Cooke received a major charging penalty. The NHL reviewed the play, held a phone hearing with Cooke and issued the supplemental disciplinary action.
"Two factors were considered in reaching this decision: Cooke delivered a forceful hit from behind on an unsuspecting opponent; also, he is considered a repeat offender under the league's supplemental discipline rules," NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said in a statement.
Cooke will forfeit $87,804.88 in salary.
He was suspended for two games in November 2009 for a hit to the head of New York Rangers forward Artem Anisimov.
Cooke was not fined or suspended for his most famous hit, which left Boston's Marc Savard with a severe concussion last March. That check was legal under NHL rules at the time, but led to the league enacting Rule 48, which covers certain hits to the head.
Shero didn't argue vehemently against the latest ruling, which did not fall under Rule 48.
"Did I expect four games? Maybe, maybe not," Shero said. "But he's a repeat offender. I talked to Matt. We have to accept it."
Cooke was not available for comment Wednesday, but after the game he said he was not skating full speed and that Tyutin -- who was playing a puck near the corner after it had been dumped into his end -- saw him coming and turned away from him and toward the boards, so that Tyutin went into the boards front-first when Cooke finished his check.
Shero seemed to side with Cooke about Tyutin's actions.
"Some of these defensemen, they have to be a little careful," Shero said. "He was making a play and saw Cooke coming. He made a play and turned his back, put himself in that position. I'm not blaming him, but that's the way guys play now.
"Matt is glad he wasn't injured, but there's a line he can't cross, and he's got to find that."
Shero added that Cooke has done a good job adjusting his game to avoid hits that fall under Rule 48.
Coach Dan Bylsma hadn't seen a replay of the hit on Tyutin but had this description from watching it live:
"[Cooke] is on a forecheck. He's not skating [full speed]. He's not moving his feet as to get a charge. The player looks him right in the eye, knows he's coming and makes sure he keeps his numbers turned toward him. But Matt does hit him there and send him into the boards."
In 54 games this season, Cooke has 106 penalty minutes, equal to his total all last season. He also has 10 goals, 23 points, leads the team and, before Wednesday, was tied for 10th in the NHL with 161 hits, and is part of the league's best penalty-killing unit.
His suspension hits hard because the Penguins already are missing six forwards because of injury.