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Blackhawks brace for Matt Cooke’s return to Wild lineup
Matt Cooke returns to the Minnesota Wild lineup for Friday’s Game 4 coming off his seventh suspension, the seven games he sat out for kneeing Colorado’s Tyson Barrie upping his career total to 32.
But Cooke continued to insist he’s a changed man, and that the Barrie play was the exception, not the rule.
“Although this one situation happened, I still believe and know that I’m in a good spot as far as the way I approach the game, to go out and play a physical style without being [risky],” Cooke said on Wednesday. “Obviously, there’s the one situation that’s going to be in my head that it happened, but I’m a firm believer in the work that I’ve put in to change the style, to change my approach to the game, to allow me to go out and have success.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo said it’s up to Cooke to walk that fine line without detracting from the agitating style that makes him effective.
“For sure, that’ll be there,” Yeo said. “At the same time, he’s got to play his game, he’s got to play it with confidence.”
Cooke, who said he “earned myself an ulcer” having to watch his teammates play seven games without him, certainly adds another dimension to the Wild lineup as they try to even the series with the Hawks on Friday. He’s a physical player, but he’s also got some skill — 10 goals and 18 assists while playing all 82 games for Minnesota this season.
Patrick Kane said the Hawks will be mindful of Cooke, just as they’re mindful of any player. But they won’t be looking over their shoulder and bracing for anything dirty.
“I don’t think so,” Kane said. “He probably knows better now, where he can’t make any more hits that are going to affect himself or the team. When a player like that comes back in the lineup, [if] you worry about that player too much, it only affects yourself in a negative way. He can be an effective player, though.”