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updated: 5/7/2014 8:54 PM

Now Blackhawks have to beware of Wild's Cooke

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  • Wild forward Matt Cooke, at right talking to teammate Mikko Koivu, will be back for Game 4 against the Hawks after serving a seven-game suspension for a hit he delivered to Colorado's Tyson Barrie in the first round.

      Wild forward Matt Cooke, at right talking to teammate Mikko Koivu, will be back for Game 4 against the Hawks after serving a seven-game suspension for a hit he delivered to Colorado's Tyson Barrie in the first round.
    Associated Press

 
 

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Wild lineup just got potentially a little wilder with the return of Matt Cooke, the guy with the long rap sheet and the reputation among many as one of the dirtiest players in the league.

The veteran forward is back from his latest suspension -- this one a seven-game sentence for a knee-to-knee hit on Colorado's Tyson Barrie -- just in time for Game 4 against the Blackhawks.

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When he met the media Wednesday, Cooke wasn't too keen to talk about the hit, the suspension or the reaction from the hockey world about it or the five that have preceded it -- including a 17-gamer in 2011 -- but eventually he acquiesced.

"It's not my job to go out and change peoples' opinions," Cooke said. "It's my job to go out and play the way that I can to be successful and help my teammates win.

"I can't change it. All I can do is go out and play the way that I play, build the stats that I've built over the last three years, and the rest will take care of itself."

But he does know that all eyes will be on him Friday -- and beyond -- and that means there might be a fine line he will have to toe for quite a while.

"I still believe that I'm in a good spot as far as the way I approach the game to go out and play a physical style without being riskful," he said. "Obviously there's the one situation that's going to be in my head, but I'm a firm believer in the work that I've put in to change the style, to change my approach to the game."

Minnesota coach Mike Yeo has confidence there won't be any more "incidents."

"He's a guy we've talked about how he's tried to change his game and try to take a different approach, and for the most part (before) that happened last series," Yeo said. "He hadn't had a charging or a boarding or anything like that. He's been able to hit, but he's been able to hit clean. And I'm sure that he'll be able to do the same thing."

Yet the Barrie hit will linger.

"For sure that'll be there," Yeo said. "At the same time, he's got to play his game; he's got to play it with confidence."

Though the Blackhawks will be aware of Cooke's presence for the remainder of the series, Patrick Kane said it won't get to the point where the players will be looking over their shoulders whenever he's on the ice.

"I don't think so," Kane said. "He probably knows better now where he can't make any more hits that are going to affect him or the team.

"When a player like that comes back in the lineup, with the matching lines, you worry about that player too much and it only affects you in a negative way. He can be an effective player, though. He can be good finishing checks, forechecking, and he has some skill to his game, too.

"Gotta be aware of that."

mspellman@dailyherald.com

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