With hits to the head such a hot-button topic in the NHL this season, all eyes will be on league disciplinarian Colin Campbell and the league office once again to see how they deal with the latest Matt Cooke infraction, an apparently intentional elbow to the head of defenceman Ryan McDonagh.
The incident occurred less than five minutes into the third period of Sunday's Rangers-Penguins game, when Cooke went high and landed an elbow on McDonagh's jaw. McDonagh had his back turned to the Penguins forward, and was in the process of shooting the puck into the offensive zone.
Cooke was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct, which will likely trigger an investigation and hearing in the coming days.
Penguins owner Mario Lemieux was recently critical of the NHL for not enforcing enough discipline after a fight-filled game between Pittsburgh and the Islanders last month. In that game, 346 penalty minutes were assessed.
While the league didn't respond or fine Lemieux, the hockey community fired back at the Hall of Famer, who, many argued, was silent during Cooke's blindside hit on Savard.
"I don't think you can talk about eliminating head shots from the game, as we have as an organization, and not expect that to be examined, as what looks to be contact right to the head, on the play," said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma after the game. "The league will look at that and treat it as such."
If disciplined, this would be Cooke's fifth suspension - and his fourth involving a hit to the head or a hit from behind.
His most recent suspension was in February this season, when he was given a four-game sentence for a hit from behind on Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Fedor Tyutin.
In November 2009, he was slapped with a two-game ban for a check to the head of Rangers' forward Artem Anisimov. A season before that in January, Cooke was served with another two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Scott Walker of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Cooke is perhaps best known for a hit that didn't garner any penalty or suspension. In March of 2010, Cooke delivered an unsuspecting head shot to Bruins centre Marc Savard. Savard suffered a Grade 2 concussion on the hit, and missed two months of the season.
The broadcasters calling the game were quick to assess what they had just witnessed from Cooke.
"Oh, that is nasty," NBC's Ed Olczyk said after seeing the slow motion replay during the broadcast. "That's a flying elbow. I guarantee you, he's going to sit some games for that one. He had one thing on his mind, that was to separate the helmet from the head of Ryan McDonagh. That was a cheap shot by Matt Cooke. No question, against a defenceless player. McDonagh doesn't see him coming, because he's focusing on the puck. That's clearly a hit to the head."
"I didn't see him coming. I know it hurt, that's for sure," McDonagh told the Canadian Press. "I would hope it wasn't his intent. It's a tight game. I'm sure he's not trying to get his team a five-minute penalty. He'd probably just trying to finish his check and just caught me wrong."
There have been 31 suspensions handed out in the NHL this season, with almost half (15) for blows to the head. This doesn't include other suspensions where a head injury could have been involved, such as checking from behind or charging.
In fact, the last four suspensions the league has doled out have been for hits to the head in the past month. Two occurred in the past week, as Dany Heatley and Brad Marchand were each suspended for two games. Pavel Kubina got a three-game ban, while Trevor Gillies was handed a 10-game suspension for delivering a blow to the head of Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck.
You've read the facts; now it's your turn. How many games does Matt Cooke deserve for another blow to the head penalty? As always, it's Your! Call.