NHL levies seven-game suspension on Wild’s Cooke

Matt Cooke, 35, is Minnesota's most playoff-experienced player with 100 playoff games in his career. He was also important in shutting down the Avalanche's high-scoring top line in Monday's win. Cooke played in all 82 games in his first season with the Wild.

Perry Nelson/Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matt Cooke will miss the remainder of the Minnesota Wild’s first-round playoff series, and potentially into the second round if Minnesota advances, after Cooke was suspended for seven games by the NHL on Wednesday night.

Cooke was suspended for a knee-on-knee hit on Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie in Monday’s Game 3, an eventual 1-0 overtime victory for the Wild. Barrie has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee because of the hit and is out four to six weeks, according to Colorado head coach Patrick Roy.

Cooke has 48 hours to appeal the suspension. If NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upholds the seven-game ruling, Cooke then would have seven days to appeal to an arbitrator. However, Cooke would not be able to suit up for the Wild until the appeal process is complete.

The league levied the heavy suspension against Cooke for the hit, noting Barrie’s injury and Cooke’s history in the video released by the league’s department of public safety. Cooke is not considered a repeat offender because he hasn’t been disciplined since March 2011, but the league noted Cooke has been fined or suspended nine times in his 15-year NHL career.

"It is important to note that Cooke is leading with his knee, a part of the body with which he cannot legally deliver a check," the league announced in the video. "Additionally, upon seeing that Barrie has moved to avoid this check, instead of avoiding the possibility of illegal contact, Cooke further extends his left leg to ensure contact."

Cooke, 35, is Minnesota’s most playoff-experienced player with 100 playoff games in his career. He was also important in shutting down the Avalanche’s high-scoring top line in Monday’s win. Cooke played in all 82 games in his first season with the Wild, recording 10 goals, 18 assists, a plus-8 rating and 54 penalty minutes.

"Obviously things you don’t want to have happen," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said of the hit and injury in speaking with the media Tuesday. "I think we all want to play good, physical, intense hockey. At the same time, I know that they want to do the same to us. Neither side wants to see anyone get hurt. Obviously on our part, we don’t want to see one of our players get suspended. Obviously not going to be sitting here and saying we’re in a great mood about any of that."

Cooke had come off the bench and approached Barrie in the second period of Monday’s game. Barrie passed the puck, but Cooke’s left knee was extended and the contact knocked Barrie to the ice. Barrie left the game and didn’t return. Cooke was given a minor penalty for kneeing.

"The play is entirely in front of Cooke from the moment he steps on the ice and begins striding towards Barrie, well before impact is made," the league said in the suspension video. "The onus is on Cooke to ensure that any check he attempts is executed legally and through the core of Barrie’s body. There’s no question that seeing Cooke coming at him, Barrie takes evasive action and moves to his right in an attempt to avoid contact. While this evasive action might have worsened the extent of injury, it should have been entirely predictable to Cooke that Barrie would attempt to avoid contact."

Colorado leads the series two games to one heading into Thursday night’s Game 4 in Minnesota. If the suspension isn’t fully served during the playoffs, Cooke will have to serve the remaining games at the beginning of next season.

"He’s a big piece of this team," Wild captain Mikko Koivu said of Cooke. "The way he plays, he gives confidence to the whole team. But we’re going to support him whatever happens. Now it’s a chance for somebody else to come into the lineup and do that job for us . . . in a different way. Obviously you can’t find another Matt Cooke. If he’s out, we’ll miss him, but at the same time, he’s going to support us, we’ll support him and we’ll move on."

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