Jets and Penguins ready to go — Matt Cooke draws a crowd

- February 15th, 2013

Interesting morning at the downtown arena.

The Pittsburgh Penguins always draw a crowd when they roll into the MTS Centre to face the Winnipeg Jets and today was no different.

Plenty of talk inside their dressing room about the Matt Cooke/Erik Karlsson collision that resulted in the Ottawa Senators star blue-liner coming away with a 70% severed Achilles’ tendon.

Cooke has plenty of support inside the room and I though he handled himself incredibly well, under tough circumstances.

It’s clear that his past reputation is a big factor in how the incident is being perceived, at least by the Senators — the latest comments had Sens owner Eugene Melnyk basically calling Cooke a goon, suggesting he had no place in the NHL.

Here’s Cooke’s take:

Cooke on Melnyk comments:

“Obviously, I’m sorry that Mr. Melnyk feels that way. But I understand the position that he’s in. It’s not easy.”

what have past few days been like…

“I obviously felt bad about the cut and just hope that he has a fast recovery. I know it’s not fast, but as fast as possible.”

pretty emotional to have to deal with this?

“This is different than it was in the past for me. I know where my head is and how I feel about the play and that’s what’s most important.”

Given how hard he’s worked to repair his image, has it been tough to deal with though?

“I mean, if I went back to when I made the comments about changing my game, I never thought (references to his checkered history) would stop or end over the course of my career. I’m trying to hide that persona and I’m prepared to do it for the long haul. I was prepared for it from the media.”

Unfair that coaches go back to that past though…

“I’m not one to judge whether it’s unfair or not. People are entitled to their own opinions and they’ll have their own, regardless of what I do.”

did he reach out to Karlsson?

“I reached out to him via text message. Whether or not he responds to me, I understand. At the end of the day, it was a freak, unfortunate accident and I can’t control anything else but that.”

Here are a few other comments about Cooke from Sidney Crosby, Tanner Glass and head coach Dan Bylsma.

Crosby on Cooke:

“With Matt’s history, he probably gets a tough call on that one. I think that’s unnecessary.I think we all saw the play and know what happened and know that it was an accident. If you ask anyone that understands the game at all, they’ll tell you that it’s pretty hard to try to intentionally do what he did. Unfortunately, his past creeps in and people probably give him a hard time. He’s really tried to clean up the way he plays and I think he’s done a pretty good job with that. His past gives him a tough guy, but he’s made a strong effort of making sure that he’s better.”

Dan Bylsma on Cooke:

“I feel the pain of the Senators and the injury to their great player in the game, a great player on their team. If anyone understands an injury to a good player, we’ve had a number of them the last few years so we understand their pain and where they’re coming from. When you look at the play we’re talking about, it’s an unfortunate play that happens and we’ve had one like it, with Jordan Staal, where a skate hits a skate and ends up in an injury. It’s unfortunate.

“As soon as I heard what happened to Erik, I felt for the Senators and I felt for the game, because it’s a great player. I agree with Bryan Murray, you come to watch this guy play, he’s that good. I feel their disappointment in some of their comments.”

Can Cooke escape his reputation?

“For some people, (the reputation) will (follow Cooke). There are people that are making comments that haven’t really seen him play the last two years. There’s no question he’s made an adjustment, you can see it in his game, you can see it in numerous hits that he’s had this year, where he’s adjusted. I don’t think people really watch that closely. They’re eager to jump on and talk about previous history. There’s definitely been a change in Matt’s game and how he approaches the game, the way he hits in the game.”

In terms of news, as expected D Zach Bogosian is in for Jets, as is Eric Tangradi, who had the line of the year so far when asked about facing his former team in his Jets’ debut.

For Penguins, LW Beau Bennett will make his debut and has an interesting connection to Winnipeg as his grandparents grew up here.

Here are the projected lineups for both teams…

JETS

Andrew Ladd,Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, Nik Antropov
Eric Tangradi, Olli Jokinen, Kyle Wellwood
James Wright, Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn

Toby Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey, Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart, Zach Redmond

Ondrej Pavelec (Eddie Pasquale)

PENGUINS

Forwards
Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal
Beau Bennett-Brandon Sutter-Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass-Joe Vitale-Craig Adams

Matt Niskanen-Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik-Paul Martin
Simon Despres-Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury (Tomas Vokoun)

Categories: Hockey

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1 comment

  1. Paul says:

    Ohhhh poor Matt Cooke! It’s so unfair, isn’t it? He’s the victim in all this…

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