Cooke changing his approach to hockey

Matt Cooke. (ERIC BOLTE/QMI Agency)

Matt Cooke. (ERIC BOLTE/QMI Agency)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

PITTSBURGH - He knows a lot eyes will be on him.

Matt Cooke knows a lot of those eyes might be rolling when they hear the Pittsburgh Penguins winger is serious and committed to changing the way he plays hockey.

The controversial perpetrator of some of the gameís most infamous hits over the last couple of years - Rule 48 basically came into existence because of his potentially career-ending hit on Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins - said he spent the time during his latest suspension and over the summer figuring out how he can still be an effective player without crossing the line.

Cooke was suspended for the rest of the season and the first round of the playoffs - it amounted to 17 games - last spring for an elbow to the head of New York Ranger Ryan McDonagh.

His wifeís brush with death in January after a kidney ailment and being read the riot act by Penguins GM Ray Shero have changed the way Cooke looks at things.

ďI donít describe it as a makeover. I still have the body shape and physique that I have. What it is is a change in my approach. Weíre into analogies, so letís relate it to golf. Most pro golfers when theyíre inside 30 yards, they use a lob wedge and they flop it to within three or four feet. Most amateurs canít do that. They take a 7-iron and they bump and run. Iím changing my approach.

ďI always went for the big hit. Whenever I had a chance to hit, I tried to make it as impactful as I could, trying to stay within the rules. The problem with that is there are a lot of situations during that game where that approach didnít allow for much room for error and in a hurry, things can go bad. Thatís only been proven more and more the more I watch video, the more I watch other games, the more I watch other players.Ē

So is he a flop shot guy or bump and run now?

ďIím not saying Iím one or the other. Iím just saying thereís two different groups. Iím switching from one to the other because it is going to allow me more room for error.Ē

Cooke said he will still hit, but will play the puck and his opponentís stick if thereís a chance of a hit going off the rails.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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