Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Matt Cooke on Senators' forensics presentation: "It's really strange"

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: January 21, 2014 - 12:53 PM

The Wild should expect a motivated Dallas Stars team tonight.

They’re 1-8-1 this month and this morning, Stars GM Jim Nill walked into the room and the doors closed behind him. My reporter’s instinct says that’s the sign of GM who addressed his slumping team during a meeting.

Wild beat the Stars 3-2 in overtime in St. Paul on Saturday. Coach Mike Yeo will go with the exact same lineup tonight, meaning Mike Rupp and Jon Blum will be scratched.

The Wild is 7-2 this month and Darcy Kuemper will be making his fifth consecutive start and sixth in eight games. Johan Gustafsson will back him up. The Wild still expects that Niklas Backstrom will rejoin the team for Wednesday’s practice.

Good afternoon from inside American Airlines Center. If you didn't see, I did a fun profile on Elk River's Nate Prosser in today's paper. Here is the link.

I talked to Matt Cooke today about Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray meeting at league headquarters yesterday to reportedly present its forensics findings from an investigation into Melnyk’s contention that Cooke intentionally sliced defenseman Erik Karlsson’s Achilles’ tendon with his skate Feb. 13, 2013.

Here is Bruce Garrioch's story from the Ottawa Sun today.

A league source told me that whatever discussion the Sens’ brass had with the league, it won’t affect Cooke retroactively nor the Wild. Cooke played for Pittsburgh at the time of the incident.

Cooke told me of the alleged forensics presentation: “I think it’s really strange. It’s almost a full year ago that it happened. I’ve said this from the beginning and I still say it. It was a complete accident. It’s happened two or three times since with other guys (Toronto’s Dave Bolland severed a tendon from Vancouver’s Zack Kassian in November and a week after the Cooke-Karlsson incident, Winnipeg’s Zach Redmond had an artery in his thigh cut by teammate, former Wild Antti Miettinen, late in a practice at Carolina).”

On if he wishes Melnyk would just let it go, Cooke said, “I can’t control it. I learned a long time ago, all I can control is my actions and my words. I try to do that to the best that I can. Other people are going to have judgments. They’re entitled to their own opinions. I can’t tell this guy how to spend his money. He’s entitled to do what he wants.”

Tonight will be the Wild’s first game since Dallas captain Jamie Benn elbowed Cooke in the head 23 seconds into overtime Saturday. Here's the hit.

Benn wasn’t disciplined because the NHL considered it a protective maneuver. Here is the league video on "defensive contact to the head."

Cooke said he won’t be seeking retribution. “The most important thing tonight is two points. We need to put space between us and the teams behind us. This is a huge game. It’s a team in our division and behind us. We have to have the focus to go out and win the game. That’s the most important thing.”

I asked Cooke what he thinks of the NHL’s Player Safety Department saying there’s a permissible time to have “defensive contact to the head” and if he thinks it would have been considered a protective maneuver if the roles were reversed and Cooke was skating with the puck and elbowed Benn.

“I think what they’re trying to say it’s not premeditated and an unintentional protection of themselves,” Cooke said. “My only argument is that it’s still a hit to the head. They get probably 50 hits a night that they have to review. There’s an image for the league too that they want to try to uphold for fans and media and scrutiny. So you can’t suspend everything. As a player, you want to believe they’re doing their best to protect each and every one of us and you have to put your trust in that. Otherwise, it would eat you up inside.”

The whole protective maneuver in this case seems strange because replays clearly show Cooke was not going to check Benn.

“I went to go hit him and he had his head down skating through the neutral zone,” Cooke said. “So my conscience got the best of me and I stopped and he’s the one who ended up hitting me. That’s where I think it differs from the video they’ve shown of defensive hits to the head. I wasn’t hitting him. But it’s a fast game. Things happen.”

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