ST. PAUL, MINN. - The Minnesota Wild were supposed to spend Wednesday talking about energy and momentum and having played their way back into their series with the Colorado Avalanche.
Instead, they found themselves trying to plug all of the holes that Matt Cooke had poked in their Game 3 balloon.
With Cooke at a disciplinary hearing in New York, where the league handed him a seven-game suspension, his teammates were left to answer for the cheap shot that knocked 22-year-old Avalanche defenceman Tyson Barrie out of the playoffs with a knee injury.
What did you think of the hit?
What do you think about the length of suspension?
Is there room in the NHL for a player like that?
Do you feel bad for Barrie?
How do you replace Cooke in the lineup?
Fun stuff, especially for a team that should have been riding a wave of energy after out-shooting Colorado 46-22 in Game 3 to move one win away from tying the series and stealing the momentum.
“I didn’t see it on the ice and I haven’t seen it on tape, either, so I don’t want to comment too much,” said Wild captain Mikko Koivu, pretending to be the one of the few people in the entire states of Minnesota or Colorado who hasn’t seen the Cooke knee.
“Everything happens fast. We’ve seen those hits before and we will see them in the future. Nobody is trying to do that but it’s hockey and it happens very fast.
“But we’re going to support him whatever happens, all the way, and we’ll move on.”
The Avs, also back at practice for the first time since the hit, didn’t have to act like they didn’t see it, nor choose their words carefully. They had plenty of advice for the NHL supplementary discipline department.
“Everybody’s well-informed about who he is and what he does. It speaks for itself,” said Colorado defenceman Erik Johnson. “There’s no place for that in the game. Look at the guy he hit, one of our top D, he’s going to be out for the foreseeable future. I don’t even know if there’s a place for (Cooke) in this game, it’s disgusting what he’s done to guys careers.”
“It’s unfortunate,” added Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog. “It’s not the first time he has delivered a hit like that.”
What kind of impact the incident has on Game 4 remains to be seen, but with the pot at full boil already, it should be interesting.
“It’s a hard-playing team over there,” said Johnson. “We have a lot of respect for most of their guys, almost all of them. Both teams are playing hard, but we’re not looking to do anything to the extent he did. We’re going to finish our checks hard and play hard. As far as retribution, no.”
The incident is exactly what the Wild don’t need right now. Instead of focusing on their positive momentum, they’re in a guilt-by-association situation. They’re also minus an experienced veteran who had a very strong Game 3, helping blank Colorado’s top line, which had combined for 17 points in Games 1 and 2.
“(Cooke) is tough to play against,” said Minnesota centre Kyle Brodziak. “Every time he’s on the ice he’s tough to play against. The way he skates, how physical he is, everything he does.
“He was one of the guys who led the way (in Game 3).”
Now, like the guy he injured, Cooke is done for the series.
“He’s a big piece of this team, obviously,” said Koivu. “You can’t find another Matt Cooke, so whoever steps in is going to have to bring it in his own way.”
The pssssst sound you hear is air leaking out of that balloon.
“It’s up to us to make sure that it doesn’t happen,” said head coach Mike Yeo. “Momentum is something that you feel, but it’s also something that you have to establish, keep, or get back.
“Going into next game both teams understand the importance of the start.”
HISHON INTO THE FIRE
Patrick Roy didn’t even attempt to sugar coat the hornets’ nest rookie Joey Hishon will be walking into when he makes his NHL debut Thursday, right in the middle of a heated playoff series.
“Ain’t going to be easy for him,” said the Avs coach, who plans to use Hishon on Colorado’s struggling power play, along with some spot duty on the fourth line. “But remember a guy by the name of Claude Lemieux who made his debut in the playoffs and it went pretty well.
“You don’t always get to pick the right time to start. This is an opportunity for him. Joey’s dream is to play in the NHL one day, here it is.”
Hishon, selected 17th overall in 2010, missed nearly two full years of hockey after a cheap shot from Brayden McNabb in the 2011 Memorial Cup.
His NHL debut represents a long road back.
“The coaching staff down in Cleveland talks to you a lot and tries to keep you ready for any situation like this to happen,” Hishon said. “I’m just going to try and work as hard as I can and have fun with it and enjoy the experience.”
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