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NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 27275005 Down and dirty Down+and+dirty NHL

Give Matt Cooke credit for one thing: at least he's consistent.

He's consistently the biggest cheap-shot artist in the NHL, but it still says something to be the best at what you do for as long as Cooke has, even if what you do is truly despicable. And Cooke keeps adding to his lengthy rap sheet to make sure he retains the dubious distinction of being the most hated man in hockey.

Cooke's back in the news this week. He escaped justice for a knee-on-knee hit on Alexander Ovechkin on Sunday, but finally got a well-deserved unpaid vacation from the league when he was suspended four games on Wednesday for his brutal hit from behind on Columbus' Fedor Tyutin.

It doesn't seem possible that anyone could challenge him for the crown when it comes to being the dirtiest player currently in the NHL, but there are still plenty who try.

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

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NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 22028196 Matt Cooke, Pittsburgh Matt+Cooke%2C+Pittsburgh NHL

Cooke is still the undisputed champion of all that is wrong in today’s game. His title really wasn’t in any danger, but he wasn’t about to risk it anyway, with his knee-on-knee check on Alex Ovechkin and brutal hit from behind on Fedor Tyutin this week, further cementing his status as the league’s preeminent cheap-shot artist. That's added to last year’s unpunished viscous blindside head shot on Marc Savard and previous suspensions for similar hits on Scott Walker and Artem Anisimov, plus a two-game ban for spearing in 2004. Those relatively light suspensions don’t come close to exacting any true justice for the constant cheap shots Cooke administers, but hockey fans can at least enjoy a bit of poetic justice in the form of Evander Kane’s KO last season.

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

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NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 27275008 Sean Avery, New York Rangers Sean+Avery%2C+New+York+Rangers NHL

Avery was also instrumental in sparking the first brawl between the Bruins and Stars two years ago, with a hit from behind on Milan Lucic triggering a melee. He also started a near-riot when he chopped Tim Thomas during a TV timeout after moving on to New York. That change of scenery followed a six-game suspension for his infamous “sloppy seconds” comment that led to his departure from Dallas. He was also suspended by his own team while playing in Los Angeles, fined for diving by the league, forced the NHL to amend its rules when he faced directly at Martin Brodeur and waved his stick and arms in his face to screen the New Jersey netminder in the playoffs and was criticized by his own teammates earlier this year when he initially refused to fight Edmonton’s Ladislav Smid, then sucker-punched him as he turned away. All in all, just a wonderful guy, but still not as bad as ...

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

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NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 27275009 Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Chris+Pronger%2C+Philadelphia NHL

Pronger is a former Norris Trophy winner, Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist. He’s also one nasty SOB who’s long been on the league’s radar for his dirty play. He’s been suspended eight times for a totals of 22 games, with four games for a stick to the throat of Pat Peake, four more for slashing Jeremy Roenick, one for leaving the bench to fight Kelly Buchberger, two for cross-checking Brenden Morrow, one for kicking Ville Nieminen, one for elbowing Tomas Homstrom in the 2007 playoffs, one for a head shot on Dean McAmmond in the Cup Finals that year and eight for stomping on Ryan Kesler with his skate.

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

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NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 27275011 Steve Ott, Dallas Steve+Ott%2C+Dallas NHL

Bruins fans know all too well how Ott earned his spot on this list, as his antics helped spark the first fight-filled game with the Stars back in 2008. His bout with Greg Campbell off the opening faceoff also touched off last week’s series of rematches at the Garden. Ott’s other transgressions include a three-game suspension for a hit to the head of Jordan Leopold, one game for an eye gouge in a fight with Travis Moen and two games for a low-bridge hit on Carlo Colaiacovo. Oh, and there was also this brutal charge on Campbell back in 2009 that was the reason for the opening round of last week’s battle royale (pictured).

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

Glenn James - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2010/12/23/GYI0062890839_20101223220414399_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2010/12/23/GYI0062890839_20101223220414399_107_80.JPG
NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 27273015 Steve Downie, Tampa Bay Steve+Downie%2C+Tampa+Bay NHL

Downie’s rap sheet can be traced back to his junior days, where he once knocked out three teeth of teammate Akim Aliu with a cross-check in practice. He was suspended 20 games in the NHL when he left his feet to launch himself into an unsuspecting Dean McAmmond in a 2007 preseason game and another 20 in the AHL in 2009 for slashing a linesman off a faceoff. He’s calmed down some, though, as he was just fined and not suspended for a dangerous takedown of Sidney Crosby last year.

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

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NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 27275014 Jarkko Ruutu, Ottawa Jarkko+Ruutu%2C+Ottawa NHL

The more dastardly of the Ruutu brothers, Jarkko has dished out plenty of questionable hits in his day, and also been subjected to a few. He was suspended two games in 2008 for biting Buffalo’s Andrew Peters and another two in 2009 for elbowing fellow agitator Maxim Lapierre, while escaping with a fine for a head shot on Patrick Kaleta in 2009. Chris Simon was suspended for 30 games for stomping on Ruutu’s foot with his skate in 2007 and Adam Mair tried to attack him in the HSBC Arena hallway. Bruins forward Milan Lucic did get his hands on him a few years ago.

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

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NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 27275015 Maxim Lapierre, Anaheim Maxim+Lapierre%2C+Anaheim NHL

The former Canadien may be gone from the Eastern Conference, but he’s certainly not forgotten in these parts. The Habs’ chief agitator for four-plus seasons, Lapierre caused plenty of problems with his borderline hits and stickwork, and infuriated opponents even more with his tendency to dive to draw calls and his refusal to answer the bell and fight after his cheap shots. He was traded to the Ducks earlier this year, but the Western Conference should already know what they’re in store for after he was suspended for four games last year for a viscous hit from behind on San Jose’s Scott Nichol.

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

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NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 27275017 Patrick Kaleta, Buffalo Patrick+Kaleta%2C+Buffalo NHL

Kaleta always plays on the edge, which he needs to do to be effective as a checking forward for the Sabres, but he slips over that edge a little too often. That earned him a two-game suspension for a hit from behind in 2009, but has also made him the target for some questionable hits, including one of Alex Ovechkin’s major penalties for boarding last year.

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

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NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 27273022 Alex Ovechkin, Washington Alex+Ovechkin%2C+Washington NHL

Ovechkin gets away with a lot as a star player in a league with a different set of rules for its stars, but not even the NHL could look away from everything he did last season. He was ejected three times, twice for boarding majors and once for kneeing, and he was suspended twice for two games apiece. There’s no denying the talent, but Ovechkin also has a well-earned reputation as one of the dirtiest players in the game.

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

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NHL 142 43 NHL's top 10 dirtiest players 27273025 Tuomo Ruutu, Carolina Tuomo+Ruutu%2C+Carolina NHL

Believe it or not, Tuomo is the cleaner of the Ruutu brothers, as Jarkko is usually the one to really step out of the bounds of decorum. But Tuomo can have his moments as well. He’s usually sly enough to get away with a lot of his antics, and is especially adept at crashing the net and bowling over goalies. But he did get banned three games for a viscous hit from behind on Colorado’s Darcy Tucker in 2009, though, to his credit, he did accept the invitation to drop the gloves with Tucker when they met again later in the season.

— Douglas Flynn, NESN

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