Matt Cooke

What the others in the NHL are saying about Matt Cooke’s latest dirty play

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By now we’re all well aware of what’s gone on with Matt Cooke with his dirty elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh yesterday and while we await word of how long he’ll be suspended for, others around the league are letting their voices be heard.

The Penguins are in Detroit to take on the Red Wings tonight and while Cooke won’t be playing tonight (more than likely) players from both teams weighed in with their thoughts on what Cooke did yesterday and the résumé he’s built up. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review gathered the thoughts of players from both teams today and while some Wings players were more outspoken, Penguins players were reserved with the exception of coach Dan Bylsma.

Bylsma:

“It’s disappointing to see that kind of hit on that situation, given the timing and the circumstances. That’s a hit we don’t want in the game. Considering the time on the clock and in the game that makes it that much more disappointing. It put our team in a bad spot with 10 minutes to go in a 1-1 game.”

Bylsma’s position is tough because he’s got to be the guy to judge where the line is for Cooke between being an effective checking forward and being completely reckless and a detriment to the team. It’s a truly unenviable position.

Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg didn’t hold back in his feelings.

“You have to give him a suspension that will hurt him. You can’t just go 4-5 games. It clearly doesn’t work. You have to set a standard here, especially with what we’ve been going through this year. We just had big meetings with the general managers, the main subject was hits to the head. HEre we go a week later and he goes out and does it again, it’s going to be interesting to see what they’ll do.

“We have to be harder on suspensions. Especially guys who do this over and over again. You gotta be harder on them. But also, it’s about the respect among us players too. We have to respect each other as a player. You can’t go out and hurt a guy like that. It could be career ending.”

As for how long he should sit for, Zetterberg made it clear.

“At least the season. I don’t think he should play any more this year. And then we just have to see what we’re going to do after that.”

New York Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko has been a teammate and an opponent of Cooke’s and even he’s got reservations about what he’s doing out on the ice. Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News heard from Fedotenko and you can sense the conflict he’s got in speaking about him.

“Every player has a style of game, and his style of game is more dirty,” Fedotenko said. “I mean, trying to be in the rules, but pushing the envelope. Trying to hit, and hit hard, and get under the skin to the players. Like I said, that’s his style of game, and in a lot of areas, he’s effective, but when it happens like that – I don’t want to throw him under the bus, but use your head.

“Watch ‘NHL on the Fly’ or any kind of news, it’s been headshots, headshots, headshots. There, clearly – I didn’t see it during the game, but this morning I saw it on the replay, and he was missing the guy, so he just put the elbow right in the head. It was obvious. I don’t know what he can say for that. I don’t know. And with the NHL trying to crack down on it, I’m sure it will be a big issue, especially with what’s happened with his teammate, Crosby, there. So we’ll see what’s gonna come from there.”

It’s that sort of thoughtlessness that Cooke seems to embody through all this that makes most people scratch their heads and get angry at him over what he does on the ice. After all, it’s not as if this new territory for Cooke as his history of questionable and dirty hits is a long one.

His teammates love him for what he can do on the ice and they care for the guy as a man and a friend, but as a teammate he’s a distraction and for a team as banged up as the Penguins are, he’s a negative influence by putting them down a man for minutes at a time and then getting banned by the league. It’s a rough crossroads for the team, but they have to feel as if they’re in the position of having to do something soon to cure their ills.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

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The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

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When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.