Penguins forward Matt Cooke has been suspended for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for his blindside elbow on Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh. (BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images)
The NHL has come down hard on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke for delivering a blindside elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh on Sunday.
Cooke has been suspended for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs.
With 10 games left in the Penguins regular season schedule, the suspension means Cooke will be sitting out between 14 and 17 games.
"Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position," said NHL vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell. "This isn't the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response."
"The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game. Head shots have no place in hockey," said Penguins general manager Ray Shero. "We’ve told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message."
It’s the second suspension of the season for the Pittsburgh superpest after being dealt a four-game ban for delivering a hit from behind to Blue Jackets defenceman Fedor Tyutin on Feb. 8.
Cooke’s elbow on McDonagh occurred less than five minutes into the third period of the March 20 matchup. Cooke approached McDonagh from behind and made contact with the Rangers rookie’s jaw using his left elbow. McDonagh was not seriously injured on the play.
It is the fifth suspension in Cooke’s career. In Nov. 2009, he received a two-game ban for a check to the head of Rangers forward Artem Anisimov. He was dealt a two-game suspension for a head shot against Carolina Hurricanes forward Scott Walker in Jan. 2009. In Feb. 2004, he speared Minnesota Wild forward Matt Johnson, resulting in a two-game ban.