The Pittsburgh Penguins have been short on bodies for months with their two superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby both out due to injury. On Tuesday they lost one more player for the remaining 10 games of the season, as the league slapped forward Matt Cooke with a suspension that will include the first round of the playoffs.
The suspension announcement came just two days after he delivered an elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh that earned Cooke a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct during the Penguins’ 5-2 loss at home.
The 32-year-old Cooke has managed to build up a reputation during his 11-year NHL career as one of the league’s dirtiest players and the suspension marked the fifth time he was reprimanded for a hit to the head of an opposing player. His most recent incident came just last month, when he served a four-game ban for a hit from behind on Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin.
“Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position,” NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said in a statement. “This isn’t the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response.”
Cooke has been a key role player and agitator for the Penguins this season and has managed to score 12 goals to accompany his 30 points in 67 games. Thanks to the suspension, Cooke will forfeit just over $219,500 in salary and will not get to see action again this year unless the Penguins can make the playoffs and beat their first round opponent.
Cooke found the news out during the Penguins morning practice on Tuesday and just hours later made a public apology.
“I’m fortunate Ryan McDonagh wasn’t hurt,” he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I don’t want to hurt anybody. That’s not my intention. I know that I can be better. I made a mistake. I’m the one that’s accountable for that. I take full responsibility for it. I’m sorry to my teammates, my management, my coaching staff and my organization.”
The Penguins are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Atlantic Division, trailing their cross state rivals the Philadelphia Flyers by just four points, despite have played two more games.
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