TAMPA — The NHL made the right call in suspending Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke for the rest of the regular season and first round of the playoffs, Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said.
"Hopefully," he said Tuesday, "it helps clean up the game."
Lecavalier has long been an advocate of harsher penalties for head shots. He also has a low opinion of Cooke, whose blind-side hit on him in the penultimate game of 2007-08 caused a separated shoulder and torn labrum that required surgery.
But Lecavalier said he took no personal satisfaction in the suspension to Cooke, considered by many one of the league's dirtiest players, who laid out Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh with an elbow Sunday.
"I'm just happy that the league is doing that," Lecavalier said of the harsh penalty, slapping one hand into the other for emphasis. "They took a big step forward by doing that. By saying it's 10 games and a (playoff) round, it's going to make guys think they're serious. If you're going to elbow a guy in the head, you're going to be suspended, so keep (the elbows) down."
Cooke, suspended for the fifth time in his 12-year career, said he knows he needs to change his play: "I don't want to hurt anybody. That's not my intention. I know that I can be better. I made a mistake. … I want to change. … My actions will prove it."
The Penguins have no plans to sever their ties with Cooke, who signed a three-year contract extension last offseason.
"I'd prefer to be part of the solution to rehabbing him as a player as opposed to making the decision to toss him overboard to be somebody else's problem," GM Ray Shero told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He's a value to our team when he plays hockey."
Information from Times wires was used in this report.