Pens' Cooke downplays reunion with Sens
In his most recent visit to Ottawa, Matt Cooke was booed lustily, became the focal point of a parking lot rally, was bombarded by dozens of media members before the game and challenged to fights by numerous Senators during it.
He hasn't seen anything yet.
The Penguins and Senators begin their Eastern Conference semifinals series Tuesday at Consol Energy Center, and although the series is oozing with storylines, Cooke's polarizing presence will be at the fore.
He is considered the ultimate villain in the Senators' organization, a cheap-shot artist who intentionally injured star defenseman Erik Karlsson.
However, in the Penguins locker room, another story is told.
“Cookie really does get a bad rap,” right wing Tyler Kennedy said. “We all know that.”
Cooke was one of the Penguins' most effective players in the first round against the New York Islanders, maintaining the straight-line style that has worked for him even while many teammates reverted to a high-risk style of hockey that coach Dan Bylsma would prefer his team avoid.
Cooke's history of dangerous hits is well known, but such hits have disappeared during the past two seasons. The Penguins see a different Cooke even if the rest of the NHL labels him without giving the subject much thought.
“It's unfortunate,” left wing Brenden Morrow said. “Sometimes his reputation determines calls that refs make. It's all stuff from the past. There are still some grudges held. He plays hard. He plays on the edge. But I'll tell you what, he's a great teammate to have.”
Cooke was asked numerous times Monday about his feud with the Senators, but he wasn't interested in discussing it. Karlsson injured his Achilles tendon in the February collision with Cooke. Few outside of Ottawa believe Cooke's hit was intended to injure, but when the Penguins returned to Ottawa on April 21, Cooke was challenged to confrontations throughout the game.
“You'd have to ask them,” Cooke responded to a question about more fisticuffs being imminent.
If Cooke is in the Senators' heads, he doesn't mind.
“I've always approached games that if teams are thinking about me and worrying about me, then they aren't focused on what they're supposed to do,” Cooke said.
Cooke wouldn't bite when asked whether Ottawa players took runs at him.
“You can base your own opinion on that,” he said.
Cooke has not spoken about Senators owner Eugene Melnyk's “forensic investigation” into the collision.
Melnyk has said he is convinced Cooke's intentions were not pure and indicated that information from his investigation won't be released until after the postseason.
Many Penguins players simply smile and shake their head. Finding a way to defeat the Senators is all that concerns them.
“You've got to win games,” center Sidney Crosby said. “There are always storylines in a playoff series. This one's easy because of what happened, but there'll be something else after Game 1. It's the playoffs.”
Cooke is worried only about winning.
“I don't have any of that (other) stuff on my mind,” he said. “Ever.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ex-Penguins defenseman Niskanen still miffed by coaches’ firings
- Minor league report: Other prospects on Penguins’ radar
- Pouliot scores in NHL debut as Penguins tame Panthers
- Penguins notebook: Memorable night for Pouliot, Trocheck
- With 3 more players possibly affected, Pens’ mumps fight escalates
- Penguins notebook: Kunitz ‘really close’ to return
- Penguins continue to thrive, despite spate of ailments
- Penguins star Crosby talks about his experience with mumps
- Penguins notebook: Zatkoff returns to team as Fleury’s backup
- Penguins defenseman Letang having best season in new system
- Penguins’ Maatta to seek second opinion for shoulder