Cooke apologizes, suspended seven games

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Minnesota Wild left wing Matt Cooke apologized Thursday for the knee-to-knee hit on Tyson Barrie that sidelined the Colorado Avalanche defenseman for at least a month, saying he did not intend to injure him.


Cooke, a former Pittsburgh Penguins player, drew a seven-game suspension Wednesday from the NHL, removing him from the remainder of this first-round series and more. Cooke addressed reporters after taking part in the Wild’s pre-game skate prior to Game 4, reiterating his past insistence that he is not a reckless player.


He did not take questions, which team spokesman Aaron Sickman said was “out of respect for the process.” Cooke didn’t answer when asked as he stepped off the podium whether he would appeal the punishment.


Starting somberly straight ahead and speaking deliberately for about 90 seconds, Cooke again referenced his recent drop in penalty minutes as evidence he’s committed to playing a clean game.


“First and foremost, I want to say that I’m disappointed and sorry that Tyson Barrie can’t play for the Colorado Avalanche tonight. I wish that he could,” Cooke said. “Unfortunately, it was not my intent to collide with him knee on knee. I think it was my intent to finish my check. Playoffs are a hard, physical time, and it’s my job to be physical. I led my team in hits all three games, and it’s an intense time. I’ve led my team this year in hits and in this series.”


This is Cooke’s sixth career suspension for various safety violations, bringing his total of games banned to 34, including playoffs. He has also been fined four times. This was his first suspension in more than three years, since an elbow to the head in 2011 at New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh got him banned for the final 10 regular-season games and the first round of the playoffs that year.


Cooke referenced the date of that incident and said he’s “a changed player” since then.


Flyers switch goaltenders: Steve Mason will start Game 4 for the Philadelphia Flyers against the New York Rangers tonight.


Mason hasn’t started a game since suffering an upper-body injury on April 12. He played the final 7:15 in a 4-1 loss Tuesday night.


The Rangers lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series 2-1. Ray Emery started the first three games for Philadelphia. He was pulled after allowing four goals on 20 shots Tuesday night.


NHL announces Selke finalists: Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews are finalists for the NHL’s Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward.


The finalists were voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.


Kopitar appeared in all 82 Los Angeles Kings games and had the second-most ice time among forwards behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. The Kings allowed a league-low average of 2.05 goals per game.


Boston’s Bergeron led the NHL in face-off wins with 1,015 the most by any player in the past seven seasons.


Chicago’s Toews, who won the award last year, placed fifth in the NHL in face-off wins with 884.


The winner will be honored June 24 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.


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