Penguins GM Ray Shero applauds NHL for Cooke suspension

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In the wake of Matt Cooke’s monstrous suspension by the NHL that sees him being sat down for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, our curiosity turned towards what those in the Penguins front office would say about the situation. After all, when a player is disciplined by the league the usual response is to support the player and show disagreement with the league for the punishment.

Not this time.

Penguins general manager Ray Shero issued a statement today via the Penguins website showing that this isn’t the usual kind of situation.

“The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game. Head shots have no place in hockey. We’ve told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message.”

This kind of talk from Shero echoes what owner Mario Lemieux spoke out about in the wake of the Islanders-Penguins night of brawls and nonsense back in February, only this time around it applies to someone in house that they employ. It’s no secret that these sorts of plays are the types of things you’ll get out of Cooke but considering the Penguins have him under contract for another two years after this one, we’re guessing this is a “we’re doing this because we love you” kind of situation.

Where suspensions and fines have failed in getting through to Matt Cooke before, perhaps public shaming will finally get through to him. If that doesn’t get him to knock it off with the cheap stuff, where do you go next? At this point, those who say that if the Pens dropped Cooke there’d be 29 other teams ready to pick him up could be wrong.

That sort of negative PR isn’t worth it for teams these days. Perhaps after years of toiling away as a vagabond and public pariah would get him to mellow out (like it has with Todd Bertuzzi) but if teams know a guy is going to play with that particular edge to his game and cost them games and money, forget it. As it is, Cooke will play again for Pittsburgh eventually whether it’s in the second round of the playoffs or next season.

The next step is in Cooke’s hands for how he wants to carry forward in the league and the word from the Penguins seems simple: Shape up or ship out.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.