Matt Cooke has paid his latest round of penance.
The Minnesota Wild forward served a seven-game suspension for his knee-on-knee hit on Colorado Avalanche forward Tyson Barrie and is eligible to return to his team’s lineup. The Blackhawks, certainly, will be mindful of Cooke; but they won’t spend the rest of this series losing sleep over him.
Cooke is expected to play on Friday, when the Wild hosts the Blackhawks in Game 4 of their second-round series. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will take Cooke into consideration, but will not alter their game because of him.
“You always talk about your opponents who have a tendency, whether they’re big hitters or you have to be aware when they’re on the ice. We’ve played against a lot of guys like that over the years here,” he said. “We just have to be smart and make sure we don’t how we play and where we want to go.”
Cooke, speaking with reporters in Minnesota on Wednesday, said he was “not going to go back” and revisit the Barrie incident that earned him his sixth suspension in his NHL career. He said he’ll try to move forward and walk the right side of the disciplined line.
“Although this one situation happened, I still believe and know that I'm in a good spot as far as the way I approach the game to go out and play a physical style without being (risky),” said Cooke. “Obviously there's the one situation that's going to be in my head that it happened, but I'm a firm believer in the work that I've put in to change the style, to change my approach to the game, to allow me to go out and have success.”
Patrick Kane said he doesn’t expect any issues with Cooke.
“He probably knows better now, where he can’t make any more hits that are going to affect himself or the team,” Kane said. “When a player like that comes back in the lineup… you worry about that player too much, it only affects yourself in a negative way. He can be an effective player, though. He can be good finishing checks, fore-checking, and he has some skill to his game, too. You’ve got to be aware of that.”