Ottawa Senators playoff push could save Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke from a beat down

Senators defenceman Andre Benoit collides with Penguins forward Matt Cooke at Scotiabank Place in...

Senators defenceman Andre Benoit collides with Penguins forward Matt Cooke at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, March 15, 2011. (PATRICK DOYLE/Reuters)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:06 AM ET

Imagine the thoughts running through Matt Cooke's mind when he steps on Scotiabank Place ice for Monday night's warmup.

"I knew they'd be mad at me," the Pittsburgh Penguins winger might say to himself as he glances up at the crowd. "But not this mad."

Cooke will eventually realize the troops aren't there for him. It's purely coincidence the Senators have selected this game as their ninth annual Canadian Forces Appreciation night. Like most everybody else, the 1,100 uniformed members and their families in attendance will only boo Cooke, who stomped and sliced Erik Karlsson's Achilles tendon on Valentine's Day. They will not see revenge.

As for the Senators themselves, well, given their situation in the Eastern Conference standings, it's possible Cooke might be off the hook.

Or not.

"I don't know," Senators centre Zack Smith said when asked if payback awaits the dastardly 34-year-old from Belleville. "When it comes to it, it will come to it. We haven't thought much about that. It will be the first matchup since the incident, but at the same time, we're trying to make the playoffs. I don't think we need that to be a distraction.

"But," added Smith, "we do remember that kind of stuff."

How could you not?


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