Bruins

Morning Skate 321: NHL needs to put Cooke down

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Morning Skate 321: NHL needs to put Cooke down

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON Matt Cooke has been handed plenty of chances.The Pittsburgh Penguins' pit bull has been frothing at the mouth for years now, and showed a propensity to bite on several occasions during his career with the Pens.Hes always been protected by the heavy hitters within the Penguins organization, but now its time for the NHL to put their rabid pooch down as he simply keeps on biting the hand that feeds. Cooke dropped a premeditated, flat-out evil flying elbow on New Yorkdefenseman Ryan McDonagh Sunday afternoon before a live U.S. national audience during the NBC broadcast of PenguinsRangers, and it couldnt have been any clearer how wrong it was.Cooke lined up the Rangers forward from across the middle of the ice and provided a high elbow finish designed to separate brain from consciousness in a move thats become Cookes calling card.It was the kind of move that only somebody like Tito Santana would be proud of, and says that perhaps Cooke would have been better off joining the professional wrestling ranks. Everyone thought that the NHL made examples of Dany Heatley and Brad Marchand with two-game suspensions last week after their elbows were put on center stage during the NHL GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.But the Cooke case is where the NHL will make their biggest statement of the season in regard to head shots and dangerous hatchet man operating with a Wild West mentality.There are a group of dirty, rotten scoundrels in the NHL that make their living based on intimidation and traipsing the fine line between playing hardplaying dirty, and Cooke is their crowned prince of scumbaggery. Youve got to wonder about the social behavior capacity of a player that goes out and attempts to severely injure a fellow player after his general manager (Ray Shero) and owner (Mario Lemieux) have become the flag-bearers for stronger NHL punishments for all. There is nothing for Cooke to gain from his actions, but he seems compelled to continue them.Its indeed the perfect storm for NHL President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell to step up and do what he never did last season. Its a chance for Campbell to write the indisputable wrong of letting Cooke walk scot-free after possibly ending Marc Savards career last spring with another of his signature cheap shot elbows.Its time for Campbell and the NHL to finish the statement thats been over a year in the making.The NHL is a game made up of violent contact and brutality, but there have always been safeguards in place be they of the Dave Semenko fists of fury kind, or the supplemental discipline variety to insulate players from cheap shots and high acts of hockey cowardice.Campbell is now in place to help protect a league under fire from all sides because of their unbending brutality, and he simply needs to end Matt Cookes season.Cooke shouldnt suit up again for the Penguins during the regular season or playoffs, and their alternate captain shouldnt play another game in Pittsburgh unless he agrees to wholeheartedly change his ways.Nobody is going to choose the downright stupid route of calling police or getting Barack Obama involved with Cookes sharpened elbow act, as Montreal rashly did, but Campbell has a chance to prove justice actually does exist in the NHL.Its time for Cooke to sit down and think for a good long time about everything hes done in an infamous pro hockey career. And stop or be stopped.On to the links: The normally nondescript Henrik Zetterberg takes a stand, and tells the Sporting News Craig Custance that Cooke shouldnt play again this season. James Mirtle says that the meaningless late-season run by the Toronto Maple Leads has a pretty familiar look to it. Malden Catholic wins the Super 8 and continues to prove that theyre the new King of the Hill in Massachusetts prep school hockey. The Senators and Craig Anderson agree on a four-year deal that Ottawa hopes will benefit them in the same way it did the Bruins when they extended a contract to Tim Thomas during their darkest days. It was one of the last moves by Mike OConnell, and one of his best moves, in retrospect. The Days of Y'orr boys get a little nervous about the hard-charging Canadiens, and give a proper salute to the day Ron Tugnut made 70 saves against the Bruins. Five thoughts from Scott Burnside including a pretty good breakdown of Habs defenseman P.K. Subban after his hat trick against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon. The Dropkick Murphys and Bruce Springsteen got together for a group of songs at the House of Blues on Sunday. Great stuff, and theres a hockey connection if you check out the Dropkicks drum set. CBCs Elliotte Friedman spot on as usual when discussing the Matt Cooke situation, and the embarrassment that its caused to the Penguins organization.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

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Rask recovering from concussion, may be ready to play on Saturday

BRIGHTON -- Tuukka Rask is quickly making his way through the concussion protocol and may return to action this weekend.

The Bruins netminder skated with the other injured players ahead of Monday’s main team practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and is on track to rejoin the team at regular practice on Tuesday barring any setbacks in his concussion recovery. That would leave Rask with just a couple of games missed after getting trucked by Anders Bjork at practice last week, and it would give the Bruins back their No. 1 goaltender after Anton Khudobin let in five goals vs. the Sabres on Thursday night.

“He’s in the protocol and progressing well,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’ll probably join us [on Tuesday] for the next step if there are no ill effects from today. That’s a positive. If there are no setbacks, I think Saturday is a more realistic [timetable for a return].”

The hope would be that Rask could start elevating his game when he does return, and play better than the goalie that’s posted the 1-3-0 record, 3.30 goals against average and .882 save percentage thus far this season. But first things first with the recovery to his first career concussion as an NHL goalie, and the set of hurdles that must be passed before Rask is again allowed to jump back into game action as early as this weekend.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Bruins practice with Rask, David Krejci and Noel Acciari all skating prior to practice, Patrice Bergeron staying off ice with a maintenance day and Kevan Miller skating in main practice with a maroon, no-contact jersey:

Marchand-Schaller-Bjork
DeBrusk-Backes-Pastrnak
Agostino-Nash-White
Beleskey-Kuraly-Vatrano

Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma

Khudobin

Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

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Schaller's sterling play helping to ease Bruins' pain

BRIGHTON -- Injuries, and some really tough losses, have put a bit of a damper on the start to the Bruins season. But there've also been a couple of unquestioned bright spots.

And one of them is Tim Schaller, who's been a strong, consistent performer in the first couple of weeks of the season. The New Hampshire native -- and lifelong Bruins fan -- was penciled in as a fourth-line winger throughout most of training camp, but he’s played everywhere as injuries have ravaged the B's roster.

The high point was probably centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak (and notching an assist) in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Sabres, and filling in for a late-scratched David Krejci with a very different set of skills. Certainly he’s been a standout for the Bruins with his physicality, including stepping up and fighting man mountain Erik Gudbranson after Gudbranson's nasty boarding hit on Frank Vatrano last week, and he’s also kicked in a couple of goals and three points in seven games thus far this season.

“It’s a reactionary thing, and that’s just in a person,” said Bruce Cassidy of fighting Gudbranson. “It’s a character thing because you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Good for Timmy. That earns a lot of street cred not only in your own locker room, but the other teams notice it. too.

"We know with the goals that he can obviously chip in [offensively] and he’s doing a great job for what we’re asking him to do. He’s probably going to take ownership if he’s out there with some young guys on a line, and if he can be a leader and get that line playing the right way every night that is very valuable to us.”

Schaller’s game to this point is a continuation of what he showed in his first season with the Bruins last year, when the 26-year-old posted 7 goals and 14 points in 59 games while becoming a staple in Boston’s bottom-6 group. He’s once again shown pretty good straight-ahead speed for a big man, and a willingness to take his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame straight to the net.

“I’ve been moving well and I’ve got the two goals, so personally I’m happy [with my game],” said Schaller. “Hopefully others can feed off what I’m trying to do out there, and we get a more well-balanced game [as a team]. I had a good season last year, and what was really good was that I knew that I had more to give. That’s what I’m trying to do this season.

“I can obviously produce more. I had a good start to last season and then I kind of fell off a little bit. So hopefully I can be a little more consistent for this entire year.”

That would be a very good thing for a Bruins team that can use him in a bottom-6 energy role when its roster is healthy, and will fully utilize his versatility in times of injuries and adversity.