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Cole's injury could motivate Hurricanes

Kevin Gorman
| Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The knee-jerk reaction by the Penguins after the crash that sidelined Sergei Gonchar has been replaced by a respectful rationalization now that the skate's on the other foot.

Following the knee-on-knee collision that injured Carolina Hurricanes left wing Erik Cole in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, there were no charges of a superstar left wing getting preferential treatment by the NHL.

But, there's the question of whether it could serve as a rallying point for the Hurricanes the way it did the Penguins in their previous series.

"Anytime a teammate goes down, you definitely want to rally behind him," Carolina center Chad LaRose said. "I think we've got guys who can step in and I think we can use that as a motivational point, as well."

Cole was not available for interviews Tuesday. His status for Game 2 on Thursday night is unknown.

Of course, the culprit this time was the Penguins' Matt Cooke, not Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. The same Cooke who wondered aloud what would happen if he had injured someone in the same manner that Ovechkin did Gonchar in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal.

"If I did what he did," Cooke said, "I wouldn't be on the ice."

While Cooke was awaiting word about whether he would receive the same treatment from the NHL as Ovechkin did — who was neither fined nor suspended, but did draw a tripping penalty — Penguins coach Dan Bylsma refused to share his feelings but offered that Cooke "was engaged, trying to make a hit on the guy."

Likewise, Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice declined to offer an opinion on the collision. Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason said he didn't see the hit but witnessed its aftermath.

"I just saw Erik down. It looked kind of bad," Gleason said. "I think I heard him scream or something."

The Hurricanes have a history with Cole being injured against the Penguins at Mellon Arena, one that dates to a March 4 game in their 2006 Stanley Cup championship season. Cole suffered a broken neck when he was checked headfirst into the boards by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Cole missed all but the last two games of the Cup final.

"I don't think he likes this building too much," LaRose said.

Cole admitted as much this past weekend.

"I'm always going to have thoughts about it, for sure," Cole told the Raleigh News & Observer. "But I don't think that it's something consciously during the game I think about. There are other things to worry about; you don't need to focus on the past."

If Cole can't play, Carolina could adopt a similar strategy as the Penguins did in Gonchar's absence, by dressing seven defensemen. The logical choice would be to add Anton Babchuk back to the lineup after a two-game scratch.

"If anyone realizes that situation, it's us," Penguins center and captain Sidney Crosby said. "We realize that when guys aren't able to play, other guys step in and take that responsibility by themselves to really step up."

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