The Minnesota Wild will try to even up their Western Conference Quarterfinals series with the Colorado Avalanche at home Thursday night.
The team will of course be without forward Matt Cooke, who was suspended seven games Wednesday for his knee-t0-knee hit on Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie in game three. If the Wild keep winning, he'll be out at least the rest of the series, and partway into the Western Conference semifinals as well.
Cooke made a statement to the media today, but did not take questions.
“First and foremost, I want to say that I’m disappointed and sorry that Tyson Barrie can’t play for the Colorado Avalanche tonight," he said. "I wish that he could. Unfortunately, it was not my intent to collide with him knee-on-knee. It was my intent to finish my check."
Cooke also said he's a "changed player," acknowledging his reputation with the league. He did not say if he would appeal the suspension.
You can watch his full statement below.
Head coach Mike Yeo said after practice Wednesday Nino Neiderreitter will take Cooke's spot on the third line. Michael Russo with the Star Tribune reports Kyle Brodziak will be activated, and play with Dany Heatley and Cody McCormick.
Barrie is out 4-6 weeks with the injury, which Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy was unsurprisingly unhappy about. Roy, according to the Denver Post, said the number of games Cooke was suspended doesn't matter – his team is now without a key player.
"Tyson is very valuable to us, very important to us, and it doesn't matter if it's five games, 15 games, 20 games — we won't play with Tyson tonight and that's what we're thinking," Roy said. Reaction to Cooke's suspension was all over the map.
Colorado defenseman and Minnesota native Erik Johnson had some strong words though.
“What he’s done to guys’ careers speaks for itself. It’s disgusting, what he’s done in the past,” Johnson told the Denver Post. “He might have cleaned up his game lately, but to lead with a knee like that against a guy like Tyson, or whoever, it was sickening to see.”
Wild head coach Mike Yeo, according to the Star Tribune, said the team respects the league's decision, adding it's important the teams puts the suspension behind it.
In net for Yeo will be Darcy Kuemper who stopped all 22 Colorado shots in Minnesota's game three 1-0 overtime victory Monday.
The Wild are providing a (very official) signed permission slip to be tardy to work Friday, due to the late 8:30 CDT start time for Thursday's game (click the image to make it bigger and print it out).