Penguins have victim, suspect on roster

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby. (Darryl Dyck/QMI AGENCY)

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby. (Darryl Dyck/QMI AGENCY)

STEPHEN KNIGHT, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

TORONTO -- Sidney Crosby has been on the sidelines for 10 weeks, the victim of a cluster of illegal shots to the head that has had him out of the Pittsburgh Penguins line-up since January 5th. Now his teammate Matt Cooke, arguably the dirtiest player in the league, has joined him on the sidelines.

Some would say it's about freakin' time.

Cooke, who almost ended Marc Savard's career with a head shot in March 2010 that led to a new rule banning checks to the head, has been suspended for the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for his elbow to the jaw of New York Rangers rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

With 10 games left in the Penguins regular season schedule, the suspension means Cooke will be sitting out between 14 and 17 games. It's the super-pest's second suspension of the season and fifth of his career. He's a repeat offender and a chronic headache (literally) to his opponents, his own team and league disciplinarians.

It's difficult for Pens GM Ray Shero to call for guys who illegally check Crosby to be banned or given heavy punishment when the league's most egregious offender is on his payroll.

Whether the suspension is a deterrent to Cooke or any other head-hunters who make a living taking out legitimate hockey players remains to be seen. We'll have to wait for the next gruesome video clip and the next round of outrage from fans, media, GMs and players - and the next round of deafening silence from the NHL Players' Association.

Here's hoping Crosby is back in the line-up before Cooke.

RICK MARTIN MEMORIAL THIS WEEK

The hockey world was shocked a couple of weekends ago with the loss of former Buffalo Sabres forward Rick Martin, a member of the famed French Connection line in the 1970s with Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert.

The 59-year-old Martin died of an apparent heart attack while driving in Western New York.

Martin began his career in 1971-72 and played all but four of his 685 career games for the Sabres. He was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in March 1981, but this was after he had suffered what turned out to be essentially a career- ending knee injury in November 1980. He notched back-to-back 52-goal seasons in 1973-74 and '74-'75. Martin ended with 384 goals and 701 points.

Martin scored 44 goals as a rookie, but the Calder Trophy was taken that year by Montreal Canadiens goaltending sensation Ken Dryden, who led the Habs to the Stanley Cup the previous spring and went 39-8-15 (W-L-T) in '71-'72.

A memorial for Martin will be held at Buffalo's HSBC Arena on March 24th at 11 am. Doors open at 10 am and parking is free.

BE-DEVILLED NO MORE

The New Jersey Devils were bottom of the barrel in early January. They were dead last in the league in scoring and in goals given up.

They had fired their coach and traded their captain. The team had a horrific record of 10-29-2 at the half-way point of the season.

Since then, however, the Devils have been nothing short of sensational, winning 24 of their last 31 games to pull within striking distance of a playoff berth. This from a team that was 10 points behind the horrid (but improving) New York Islanders earlier in the season.

The Devils are now seven points behind Buffalo with 10 games remaining. It will be an uphill battle, to be sure, but the fact that this Devils team can talk about making the playoffs at all with a straight face is a testament to its great second-half play.


Videos

Photos