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Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke questions a child about his Chicago Blackhawks T-shirt during the Minnesota Wild Road Tour stop Tuesday at the Moorhead Youth Hockey Arena. Nick Wagner / The Forum

Wild's Cooke quickly reminded of suspension in Moorhead stop

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MOORHEAD - Minnesota Wild left winger Matt Cooke has reportedly dissected his past hits in order to be physical within the NHL rules and rid himself of the goon persona since before the 2011-12 season.

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It’s not as easy as it looks.

The first wide-eyed young boy to walk up to Cooke outside the Moorhead Youth Hockey Arena on Tuesday for an autograph at the Minnesota Wild Road Tour said, “So what did you think about your suspension in the playoffs?”

The suspension the boy was talking about was the seven-game suspension Cooke received for a

knee-on-knee check to Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie in Game 3 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. This was after Cooke played in all 82 regular-season games for the Wild, finishing with 28 points and a plus-minus rating of plus-8.

Cooke smiled and said he wasn’t too happy about it.

What Cooke is happy about is where the Wild are headed. Cooke knows what a Stanley Cup team looks like, seeing as he was on the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won it all in 2009.

He says the Wild have the makings of a Stanley Cup champion.

“I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think it did,” Cooke said. “Being further on in my career than most in that dressing room, winning is important to me and I felt like that’s something we can do on a regular basis. Not only in the regular season, but also in the playoffs.”

A year after losing in five games in the first round to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Wild took the Blackhawks to six games in the second round this season. It was an unusual bounce off the boards in overtime behind the Wild goal that came directly to Patrick Kane that ended the Wild season.

The Wild were one bounce away from a Game 7 and perhaps another step forward.

“Winning the series against Colorado should give us confidence, but also the way we went about the Chicago series,” Cooke said. “I feel, and I think a lot of our players feel, that if we go out and play a seven-game series with the Blackhawks again and play the way that we did most times we’re going to be successful. That’s an important thing, but it’s also a confidence thing moving forward.”

Cooke didn’t say there was anything specific the Wild need to add in free agency. He’s just looking for someone to help grab the rope and pull.

“Obviously, the guys in the room, we don’t make the decisions,” Cooke said. “We have to go out and accept whoever comes in. I think the biggest thing from a player’s standpoint is somebody that’s going to come in and buy into what we’re building and what we’re trying to accomplish and do their part to tug on the rope.”

Next season opens up with a bit of poetic justice, as the Wild will play their first two regular-season games against the Avalanche. Cooke hasn’t faced the Avs since he was suspended.

He’s used to having a target on his jersey.

“It’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before,” Cooke said. “Obviously (the suspension is) recent in people’s memory, but I’m thankful that we won a series and I got to play again. That’s something that speaks volumes to the character of our team. Just moving forward and trying to continue to move on and prove myself.”

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Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy is the Minnesota preps and Fargo Force beat reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota for the last five years and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so. If reading him in the paper and online isn't enough, you can read more of him at the Forum Preps Blog: http://forumpreps.areavoices.com/  
(701) 241-5548
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