Quite a few Penguins-related developments today.
First, Matt Cooke will not be disciplined as a result of his hit which injured Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson in the second period of last night's game. NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan had phone calls today with Penguins general manager Ray Shero and his counterpart in Ottawa, Bryan Murray, to explain his decision.
Cooke spoke to Pittsburgh media today regarding the hit:
Regarding Karlsson, the news isn't good. Murray revealed Karlsson will be sidelined approximately three to four months due to an Achilles tendon which suffered a 70 percent cut as a result of Cooke's hit. Karlsson underwent surgery to repair the damage today. Murray said Karlsson's season "is effectively over."
In discussing his conversation with Shanahan, Murray said, “As I told Brendan Shanahan this morning, that’s not my job. My job is to worry about the Ottawa Senators. The league, Brendan being the front guy for the league in this case, has to do what they feel is right. They suggested it was a hockey play gone bad, I suggested that Matt Cooke had somewhat of a history and that maybe that should be considered as well."
In other news, the Penguins recalled right winger Beau Bennett from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Selected to this season's AHL all-star game, Bennett, 21, has appeared in 34 AHL games this season and has scored 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists). He was a first-round pick (No. 20 overall) in 2010. Bennett was at last night's game before today's formal recall. Shero said he was in town for an medical examination for a "lower-body" injury he suffered last month.
-EN Says: First, the non-action against Cooke is a no-brainer. As we've explained before on this blog, it was a hockey play whch happened to have a horrible ending. Cooke was trying to pin Karlsson (right) against the boards with his left knee to kill of the rest of a penalty. As they hit the boards, Cooke brought his left leg down to brace himself and came down on Karlsson's leg. It's a horrible injury but it's an accident. Nothing more.
The fact that it's a player with Cooke's history hitting the defending Norris Trophy winner blows the situation up. If it was Craig Adams hitting Andre Benoit, Ottawa's No. 6 defenseman, there's little in the way of speculation on this play.
As for Karlsson, you have to feel bad for him. This is just an awful injury. For a bright, young player who hasn't reached his full potential yet, you hope something like this doesn't impact his career. His greatest attribute is his skating. Hopefully he fully recovers and his skating returns to its elite level. He's just a fun player to watch as a hockey fan.
Regarding the Senators, this is a kick to the. Gut. Already playing without No. 1 center Jason Spezza and defenseman Jared Cowen, who had a strong rookie seasons in 2011-12, the Senators are short-handed as it is. This injury really hurts their playoff chances.
It's hard to imagine a more valuable player to any one team than Karlsson. The Senators use him so much in so many situations. There's no way to replace him or account for for his absence.
With Bennett, it seemed that once the Penguins found a way to part with Eric Tangradi, they were ready to bring Bennett up provided his health checked out. Head coach Dan Bylsma was non-committal today in how Bennett might be used but did admit if Bennett hadn't been injured last month, he might have been recalled earlier.
Bylsma stressed puck battles today when talking about Bennett and how he's been winning them in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season. If nothing else, you have to be willing to go the high traffic areas and battle for pucks to play for Bylsma. The fact that Byslma seemed effusive in his praise of Bennett over this aspect of the game bodes well for the rookie's chances. Especially since a common question regarding Bennett has always been his physical play.
As far as were Bennett is used, that's a complete guess. Ideally, he's a top six winger with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. We would suspect Crosby's comfort level with winger Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis would mean Bennett would be on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal assuming he dresses, but that's purely speculation at this point, especially with Byslma who has shown a willingness to mix and match lines during games this season.
(Photo: Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)