St. Paul, MN (SportsNetwork.com) - Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke issued an apology less than 24 hours after the NHL slapped him with a seven-game suspension and hours before Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinals was set to begin.
"First and foremost, I want to say that I'm disappointed and sorry that Tyson Barrie can't play for the Colorado Avalanche tonight. 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.
"Playoffs are a hard and physical time and it's my job to be physical. I've led my team in hits in all three games and it's an intense time. I've led my team this year in hits and in this series," said Cooke, who read from a written statement.
"Since March 20, 2011, I've been a changed player. I've approached the game differently, I think differently about the game. The stats that I've collected over those three seasons prove that I'm a changed player and the plays that I make and the plays that I don't make prove to that point as well. At the end of the day, this situation was not my intent."
Cooke was only assessed a minor for kneeing Barrie just over two minutes into the second period of Monday's 1-0 Minnesota victory in Game 3, but Barrie was later diagnosed with a sprained medial collateral ligament and is scheduled to miss 4-to-6 weeks.
The 35-year-old winger has been suspended six previous times for various offenses during his 15-year NHL career, with the last being a blatant elbow to the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh which drew a 17-game ban (10 regular-season games and the entirety of the Penguins' first-round series against Tampa Bay) three years ago.
"We were very confident the league would make the right decision in that case," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy offered before a morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center. "No matter how many games, that does not replace the 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."