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Pittsburgh Penguins wing Matt Cooke says hit on Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier was unintentional

PITTSBURGH — Matt Cooke said it was an accident. The Penguins left wing said Vinny Lecavalier was not his target when, as a member of the Capitals last season, he threw the check that injured the Lightning star.

"I wasn't trying to touch Vinny at all," Cooke said Tuesday, the first time the players met since the April 3 incident.

"(Michel) Ouellet had the puck and I was trying to get an angle to get to Ouellet on the boards. Vinny tried to jump in behind me so he could get by. He hit me and when he hit the ice, I think, the damage actually happened."

The Lightning always has said Lecavalier's separated right shoulder that required arthroscopic surgery occurred on the hit.

Cooke, fined $2,500 by the league, said he tried to speak to Lecavalier after the game but then-GM Jay Feaster would not allow it. Cooke said he had not spoken to Lecavalier since, though the two had words with 3:37 left in the first period, when Lecavalier was called for roughing for going after Cooke, who did not fight.

"Put it this way," Cooke said. "If I was trying to hurt someone, I would have been a lot more aggressive. I didn't even see Vinny in the play."

"He's the only that knows," Lecavalier said. "He wasn't coming in to kill me, but he could have gotten out of the way."

HOME, SWEET HOME: Signs in the hallway to the Lightning locker room at Mellon Arena read, "Welcome home Ryan Malone, Pittsburgh's favorite son." Malone, a Lightning left wing, said he might get Pittsburgh's skyline tattooed on his right forearm.

"I'm not around as much so you kind of miss it," said the Pittsburgh native and former Penguins star who last summer signed with Tampa Bay. "It was a great honor to play here and a privilege, and I cherish the time I had here."

Especially playing in last season's Stanley Cup final.

"In a perfect world, you'd like to have another crack at it with the same group of guys as last year," Malone said. "But it's time to move on."

PRESSURE PACKED: What distinguishes Penguins star Evgeni Malkin?

"Under pressure he is one of the best guys in the league," Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. "That's what you need your best players for. When it's 2-2, he makes the right pass or right shot to win the game."

Asked about Sidney Crosby, Tocchet, it seemed, took aim at his own players, whom he has prodded to play in-close.

"The one thing I like about him is he gets his nose dirty," Tocchet said. "He goes in front of the net. Sometimes you get those really good players who play perimeter. He doesn't play perimeter.

"That's what I love about watching him and Malkin. They're not afraid to get hit, and when your star players aren't afraid to get hit, it makes it a lot easier to coach guys like that."

SURGERY FOR TYRELL: Prospect Dana Tyrell will undergo "major surgery" to fix the right knee injured in Team Canada's tune-up game for the junior world championship, general manager Brian Lawton said. The Toronto Star said ligaments were damaged. Recovery time is expected to be six months.

ODDS AND ENDS: C Jeff Hal­pern played his 600th NHL game. … F Ryan Craig was scratched. … RW Mark Recchi's second-period assist gave him 1,400 career points. … The Penguins hadn't been shut out at home since Jan. 18, when they lost to the Lightning.

Pittsburgh Penguins wing Matt Cooke says hit on Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier was unintentional 12/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 5:25pm]
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