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Penguins left winger Matt Cooke

Adrian Wyld, Associated Press

Wild glad NHL gave Cooke stiff penalty

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • March 22, 2011 - 10:58 PM

Nick Schultz knows Matt Cooke well.

In 2007, Cooke, the Pittsburgh Penguins player who routinely crosses the line and was handed the stiffest suspension of the NHL season Monday, targeted the Wild defenseman's knees when playing for the Vancouver Canucks.

With Schultz leaving the defensive zone, Cooke bent down for a low-bridge check aimed at Schultz's knees instead of hitting him shoulder to shoulder.

Schultz is happy the NHL finally dealt with Cooke, who hit former Minnesota Mr. Hockey and New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh with a blatant elbow Sunday. Cooke has been suspended for the rest of the regular season and first round of the playoffs.

"You can play that role and be an agitator, and do it a certain way, but when you're going out there and targeting guys and trying to hurt guys, I don't think that's the way to play," Schultz said. "I think you can be an agitator in different ways, and chirp and be a pest. But to constantly do things like that, it shouldn't be allowed and that's why he got the suspension he did."

The Wild's Matt Cullen didn't see Cooke's latest infraction, but he's glad the NHL is cracking down seriously on intentional head shots.

"It seems like it's long overdue for the league to really take a stand on it," Cullen said. "It's a big black eye on the league, the whole thing, and it's good that the league does something meaningful with one of them. There's been a lot of slaps on the wrist."

Mental drain

Todd Richards had been questioned by some fans and media for giving the Wild a day off Monday after Sunday's 8-1 loss to Montreal.

But the coach felt the team needed a mental day away after playing back-to-back home games Saturday and Sunday and after arriving home from San Jose in the wee hours of Friday morning.

"When you travel west to east, it's difficult," Richards said. "We turned around and have a 1 o'clock game and then we have a 5 o'clock game. And to me it was a no-brainer to give the guys a day off, probably more mental than physical the way the game went on Sunday.

"I think we needed to get away from each other, just think."

Injury update

Defenseman Cam Barker missed his 13th game out of the last 14 with an upper body injury. The Wild was 2-8-2 in the 12 games he missed before Tuesday. Barker has been skating lightly and Richards said he may join practice Wednesday.

Left wing Guillaume Latendresse (lower body) missed his fifth game since his three-game comeback came to a screeching halt. Asked if there's a chance he'll be shut down for the season, Richards said, "Hoping he'll be back. May or may not happen."

Defenseman Marek Zidlicky (hamstring) is feeling better and may try to skate Wednesday, said Richards.

Richards said James Sheppard, who hasn't played all year with a knee injury, has had a setback. He's experienced soreness in his knee and stay off the ice for now.

Etc.

Agent Paul Ostby tweeted Tuesday that Bemidji State's Matt Read is 48 hours from signing. It's unlikely to be the Wild, though. As much as the Wild likes Read, who attended the Wild's development camp last summer, his age (25 as of Sept. 15) means he's not restricted to an entry-level deal. He's expected to sign a three- or four-year, one-way, seven-figure contract.

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