Suspended Cooke says he's altered his physical game
Matt Cooke isn't sure who to hit, or how, these days.
Addressing the media for the first time since the NHL suspended him for four games, Cooke acknowledged Thursday he has met with Penguins coach Dan Bylsma three times this season about not shying away from his physical approach.
Yet Cooke admitted he has, to a degree.
"I've altered my game," Cooke said, a reference to eliminating hits like the one that sidelined Boston center Marc Savard for two months last season. "I've had a meeting with the coach for not hitting a guy coming through the middle. There's a really high risk of being suspended, and I've not hit that guy."
Cooke said he has received support from Penguins ownership and his teammates, but at least one teammate didn't have a problem with the NHL's punishment.
"I think it's fair," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "That's a dangerous hit."
Bylsma did not reprimand Cooke for being suspended and praised him for being more aware of certain hits. He also suggested he doesn't want Cooke to change his style.
"Matt Cooke, for us, is a physical player," Bylsma said. "It's how we play the game as a team, and he's a big part of that. He's a guy who's added to us being a successful team in being that way."
Cooke hasn't been able to alter his reputation as a player who sometimes crosses the line.
• Last Friday, Cooke punched Buffalo's Steve Montador while Montador was on his back, earning a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
• On Sunday, Cooke's skate-on-skate hit on Washington's Alex Ovechkin nearly started a brawl and triggered a postgame tirade by Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.
• On Tuesday, Cooke hit Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin from behind, picking up a five-minute charging penalty.
Cooke did not reveal much about Wednesday's disciplinary hearing, nor did he indicate whether he felt the punishment was fair.
"It's not up to me," he said.
Cooke's suspension comes without pay, costing him $87,804.88. That approaches Steelers linebacker James Harrison territory. The NFL fined Harrison four times for $125,000 this past season for hitting a defenseless player. The league later reduced a fine by $25,000.
This is the third time Cooke has been suspended in his career. He is eligible to return Feb. 20 in Chicago.
Tyutin was not injured on the play.
"I'm glad no one was hurt," Cooke said. "It wasn't my intention to put him into the boards violently. I'm glad he isn't hurt."
Cooke spoke quietly, but if he is involved in another controversial play, the backlash from the league figures to be loud. The NHL cited Cooke' previous run-ins as a factor for issuing a four-game suspension.
When asked again about the Tyutin hit and possible future punishment, Cooke simply said, "That's the league's decision," before the interview ended moments later.
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