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Pens can avoid their own version of March Madness

Matt Cooke speaks with reporters after a practice in Arlington, Va., Monday, April 7, 2008. The Penguins winger is currently in the middle of a league-wide controversy concerning a hit on Boston's Marc Savard. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

Lawrence Jackson

The Look ahead

The smartest thing the Pittsburgh Penguins could do is scratch Matt Cooke for their game against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, thus defusing any potential Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore moment when the two teams meet for the first time since Cooke put Marc Savard on the shelf indefinitely.

Since that ugly play, there has been lots of talk of vigilante justice - and the majority of times, when there is excessive talk about retribution, nothing happens. Still, why take a chance?

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The Bruins were under some heat for not responding on the ice to Cooke's action. If the game Thursday gets out of hand, someone in their lineup might decide to even up the score.

From a Penguins' perspective, it's just not worth the risk of seeing something happen that either could drag the league's reputation even further into the terra firma - or put one of their own players at risk. It's the last regular-season meeting of the season between the two teams. Chances are by the next time they face each other, enough time will have passed to cool matters down.

The NHL is concerned enough to dispatch Colin Campbell, the senior VP of hockey operations, to the scene. Bruins coach Claude Julien sensibly noted that the last time someone tried to extract a pound of flesh under similar circumstances, it resulted in a civil lawsuit (Moore v. Bertuzzi) that is still pending.

The San Jose Sharks began a six-game trip in Anaheim last night. The journey includes three games in Western Canada, including a Friday date with the Calgary Flames, the first time this season that Dany Heatley will get to play in his hometown. Last year, the Sharks won the overall regular-season title and were rewarded with a first-round playoff series against the surging Ducks, not much of a reward for six months of excellence. They could face a similar nerve-wracking first-round opponent this spring again. The Sharks are flirting with the overall conference lead again and the Detroit Red Wings are hanging around just on the edge of playoff contention, healthy for the first time all season and starting to come around. Sometimes life just isn't fair.

The surging Montreal Canadiens , the hottest team since the Olympic break, could create even more separation from the ninth-place Rangers by winning in New York tomorrow night. It sure looks as if this is Jaroslav Halak's team now, given that coach Jacques Martin started him again in goal in a critical game against the Bruins on Saturday. The Canadiens were the first NHL team to reach 70 games played; after tomorrow, they don't play again until Saturday in Toronto, at which point injured winger Mike Cammalleri will be down to the last few days of his recovery from a medial collateral ligament strain.

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About the Author

Eric was the winner of the Hockey Hall Of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing" in 2001. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario's grad school of journalism, he began covering hockey in 1978 and after spending 20 years covering the NHL and the Calgary Flames, joined The Globe in 2000. More


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