A win over Pens is more important than revenge on Cooke: Sens players

To a man, the Ottawa Senators insist that getting two points Monday is more important than getting even against Pittsburgh Penguins agitator Matt Cooke.

The Senators' focus Monday night is on a win, not Pittsburgh agitator Matt Cooke. Photo by Jean Levac/The Ottawa Citizen.

To a man, the Ottawa Senators insist that getting two points Monday is more important than getting even against Pittsburgh Penguins agitator Matt Cooke.
A Senators victory, coupled with a loss by the Winnipeg Jets in regulation against the Buffalo Sabres, would allow Ottawa to qualify for the postseason, letting the Sens breathe a little easier for their remaining three games of the regular season. A Senators victory would also allow them to leapfrog past the New York Islanders and back into sixth spot in the Eastern Conference.
While Cooke is generally considered to be the most hated hockey player in these parts due to the fact he sliced the back of Erik Karlsson’s leg on Feb. 13 — resulting in surgery to repair Karlsson’s severed Achilles tendon — the Senators claim that it’s a backburner issue.
“He’s one player and clearly if we allow him to be a distraction, he has already won,” said defenceman Marc Methot, who was Karlsson’s defence partner at the time of the devastating injury to the defending Norris Trophy winner. “We’ll play him hard, but we’ll keep it clean. Our goal is to get the two points and move on.”
For the circus that Cooke figures to bring — expect a chorus of boos when Cooke first hits the ice and whenever he touches the puck — Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson says the Senators preparation is all about “focusing on what we have to do.”
Cooke is familiar with being the villain and was careful with his words Monday morning.
He insists it was a freak accident, but he said “I’m glad (Karlsson) is close to recovery and coming back and (the Senators) have done a great job of putting themselves in a playoff position.”
It was somewhat hard to believe, however, when Cooke claimed “I haven’t put any thought into it” when asked about how Senators players might react towards him.
The Penguins will be without forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, defenceman Kris Letang and goaltender Marc-André Fleury, as they do attempt to rest up their players in preparation for what they hope will be a long playoff run.
The Senators, however, say there’s no excuse for taking the Penguins lightly.
“Sure, they’re missing some of their best players, but it’s almost an all-star team,” Guillaume Latendresse said.
“They’re still an excellent team,” Methot added. “They’re still a really deep hockey team. It’s going to be a tough game, regardless.”
Craig Anderson will start in goal for the Senators, hoping to rebound from a rare off night in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Senators coach Paul MacLean was also coy with possible changes to his lineup. While there were appearances that heavyweight Matt Kassian would be taken out in favour of Latendresse, MacLean said Monday morning that he had not made any changes yet. A few minutes earlier, however, Latendresse said he would be playing.

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