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Wild's Cooke - a changed player - has advice for Kaleta

TSN.ca Staff

10/16/2013 5:05:26 PM

Once a career NHL agitator himself, Minnesota forward Matt Cooke can relate to what Patrick Kaleta is going through this week and went so far as reach out to him after the Wild's game in Buffalo on Monday.

"I told him, I've been there, it's not fun - It's hard," Cooke told TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun on ESPN.com. "I laid it out there that if he wants to know what I did, I'd gladly talk to him about it. He knows Pommer (former Sabre-turned-Wild forward Jason Pominville), so I told him `If you want to get hold of me, I'm there to talk."

Cooke, who's had his share of league discipline over a 15-year career, came back a changed player with the Pittsburgh Penguins after being suspended for the last 10 regular-season games and first round of the playoffs in 2010-11. And his advice for Kaleta is to try to do the same thing.

"During my suspension, with either (Dan) Bylsma or (Tony) Granato, I probably watched about 30 or 40 hours of video; watching players that play a physical style," said Cooke. "The hours of video work I did seriously helped me," he added. "The work that I put in has helped me not only take the risky plays out but also become a more effective player. I've got a way more active stick on the forecheck, and I'm more aware of my surroundings which has helped me offensively."

Kaleta was handed a 10-game suspension on Tuesday for an illegal check to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Jack Jackson, a decision that he, his agent and the NHL Players' Association will appeal.

Part of changing his game included dealing with adversity, as Cooke recalled an incident in the 2010-11 season when a player dove into the boards after he barely touched him. "My heart was racing," Cooke told LeBrun. "I thought I was getting suspended. But before I was even off the ice Brendan (Shanahan) had called (Penguins GM) Ray Shero to tell him he knew I didn't touch the guy. That re-assured me."

And by Cooke's own admission, he's still learning.

"It's never going to be over for me, and I realize that, and I'm fine with that," he said. "Right now I err on the side of caution. I still watch video to make re-assure that there are good times to go out and by physical.

"It's just a read. If you don't change the way you visually see the game, then change is impossible."

Case in point - Cooke leads the Wild in scoring with three goals and six points in seven games and has yet to pick up a penalty minute this season.

"There's a huge difference in the way I approach the game now," he explained. "The days of just going for the big hit, every time possible, is just not feasible. The way the game is played now, the speed of the game, and the way the kids are taught to play the game."

Files from ESPN.com by TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun were used for this report.