Matt Cooke, suspended seven games for injuring Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie with a knee-on-knee hit Monday night, addressed the media this afternoon.
Cooke didn’t field questions but made an unwritten statement.
“First and foremost, I want to say that I’m disappointed and sorry that Tyson Barrie can’t play for the Colorado Avalanche tonight. I wish that he could. Unfortunately, it was not my intent to collide with him knee-on-knee. It was my intent to finish my check. Playoffs are a hard and physical time and it’s my job to be physical. I’ve led my team in hits in all three games and it’s an intense time. I’ve led my team this year in hits and in this series.
“Since March 20, 2011 (the elbow to Ryan McDonagh that resulted in a 17-game suspension), I’ve been a changed player. I’ve approached the game differently, I think differently about the game.
That The stats that I’ve collected over those three seasons prove that I’m a changed player and the plays that I make and the plays that I don’t make prove to that point as well. At the end of the day, this situation was not my intent.”
Cooke has until tomorrow night to decide if he will appeal his suspension to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Cooke didn’t respond when I asked if he would.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said this morning, “It doesn’t matter the number of games [Cooke received]. It doesn’t replace Tyson Barrie. We want to see Tyson on the ice tonight.”
Zach Parise wouldn’t discuss his opinion of Cooke’s suspension length nor the perceived inconsistency in the league’s decision-making process when it comes to suspensions (i.e. Bryan Bickell leading with his knee on Vladimir Sobotka last weekend and getting nothing):
“I don’t know what they look for. It’s not fair for me to comment on it, but I have got my opinion.”
On Cooke, Parise said, “You’ve got to know when he’s on the ice because he finishes his hits. So when you’re playing against him, if you’ve got your head down, he’s going to come after you and try and hit you. He’s one of those players where you just got to know where he is.”
Coach Mike Yeo is excited to finally drop the puck on Game 4 at an absurdly late 8:30 local time.
“It’s amazing a couple days between games in the playoffs feels like a week. Good day off, good practice yesterday, and now I can’t wait to hurry up and wait ‘til 8:30 tonight,” he joked.
As you know because you READ TODAY’S COVERAGE, Nino Niederreiter will take Cooke’s spot on the left side of the Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine line. Also, Kyle Brodziak, scratched Monday, will center Dany Heatley and Cody McCormick.
Darcy Kuemper vs. Semyon Varlamov. Kuemper made 22 saves in his first career shutout in his first career playoff start Monday.
“Honestly, I don’t think it would even matter who would be in net for them,” Roy said. “I think we had only four scoring chances all night long. They played really well. I mean, they tracked really well, they came back hard in the middle of the ice. They played with great urgency. I mean, they had a solid game. I have to give it to them. I don’t want to take anything from [Kuemper], but at the same time, I thought he had an easy game and I’m sure Bryzgalov could have done the exact same thing.”
On Cooke’s sentence, Yeo said, “We always definitely respect and accept what the decision is from the league, and with that, it’s just real important that we all put it behind us.”
On if Cooke will continue to provide a leadership role on team (he can practice and travel and be around all team functions, and he did skate today with the team), Yeo said, “For me, I’m focused on the game tonight, so to sit here and say that I spent the morning trying to make a plan for Matt Cooke, I haven’t. We’re playing Colorado tonight and I’m focused on the guys that are in the lineup. There will be time for some of those decisions.”