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Anticipation for Thursday's Cooke-out

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  March 15, 2010 09:15 AM

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Who's more at danger Thursday night? Matt Cooke or Colin Campbell?

Guess it depends if you'd rather face the wrath of the Bruins or their fans. Based on the amount of fight and intensity we've seen from the former this season, I suppose the answer is painfully obvious.

NHL disciplinarian czar Campbell will be in attendance Thursday night at the Garden, where the Bruins and Penguins face off for the first time since Cooke likely put Marc Savard out for the season with a vicious, yet legal, hit to the head. For sure, Campbell wants to make sure that no funny business occurs on the ice.

It has become the most anticipated game of the season, and yet does anyone really think the Bruins are going to react? Sure, we hope they find a (legal) way to slam Cooke to the ice, but after they failed to do anything last Sunday in Pittsburgh, should we expect anything? You need only go back to Saturday night to watch the way Marco Sturm's teammates apparently stopped for tea and tuna fish sliders en route to defending him against Andrei Markov and about 19 other Canadiens in order to understand the lack of fight in Claude Julien's slip-sliding Bruins.

We're all expecting a classic donnybrook at the Garden, daring Campbell to suspend the Boston instigators (please let Dennis Wideman be involved in something). Reality is we'll probably see the same laissez-faire approach we've seen night in and night out since October. Hey, they are fighting for the eighth seed after all, which will give us all four more games of April hockey. Don't want to sacrifice that by making a statement.

As for the hit itself, Campbell will tell you that the league's failure to suspend Cooke was simply being "consistent," which is really just another way of saying that all of the league's disciplinarian decisions are farcical.

Here's Don Cherry's phenomenal take on it during Saturday night's "Hockey Night in Canada."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook goes as far to suggest that the league's lack of action thus far has similar parallel to the Todd Bertuzzi situation, a controversy that, along with the Donald Brashear-Marty McSorley affair, happened under Campbell's watch.

In the 2004 season, a hit from [Steve] Moore, then playing for the Colorado Avalanche, left Vancouver captain Markus Naslund with a concussion. The play didn't draw a penalty in the game or a suspension. When the teams played again later that season, the Canucks decided to get even. Cooke, of all people, was playing for Vancouver at the time and got into a fight with Moore early in the game. Later, the Canucks' Bertuzzi, after failing to goad Moore into another fight, skated behind him and punched him in the back of the head, driving his face into the ice and fracturing three vertebrae in his neck. The incident ended Moore's career.

What if one of the Bruins does that to Cooke? Or even [Sidney] Crosby or [Evgeni] Malkin? Savard is Boston's best player, after all. Why should the Bruins settle for going after Cooke, a role player?

Ridiculous, you say?

You don't know the NHL.

 

Malkin injured his leg during last night's game against Tampa Bay, and you have to wonder if it might not conveniently sideline him for a few days. Crosby showed obvious concern for Savard in the moments after his teammate laid the Bruins forward flat on the ice, which could spare him a pass vs. the players in the retaliatory mood.

Plus, there's the question as to whether Cooke will even play. It's not out of the realm of possibility he ends up a healthy scratch Thursday night. That will enable the Bruins to throw their hands up in the air and argue that justice was taken out of them, en route to a 2-1 shootout loss.

The one aspect of this team you can depend on is its predictability.

Campbell, on the other hand, may want to make sure he's comfortably seated in the press box hours before Bruins fans march into the Garden. Sadly, they seem angrier about the whole thing than Savard's teammates do.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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