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Matt Cooke escapes suspension for hit on Marc Savard

Earlier in the day, TSN's Bob McKenzie - arguably the most level-headed and well-connected ‘person in the know' -- hinted on his Twitter account not to be surprised if Matt Cooke was NOT suspended for his concussion-causing hit on Boston's Marc Savard.  McKenzie, a very outspoken opponent of headshots, said that the hit wasn't "illegal" by the current rules and since Mike Richards escaped suspension earlier in the season on a similar type of hit, it wouldn't be surprising to see Cooke slide through as well.

Turns out that will be the case, as after a 12:30 conference call with NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, it's been reported that Cooke will not be punished.  However the legality of this type of hit is likely to change very soon.

NHL General Managers were scheduled to meet this week anyways to talk about rules changes, and with head safety/concussions already a priority, the Cooke/Savard incident put it right in the fore-front.  The GM's passed this wording for a new rule (which still has a couple steps to go before becoming official)

"A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and or the principal point of contact is not permitted.

A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline."

In a nutshell, this would outlaw what Cooke did to Savard and what Mike Richards did to David Booth, and set offenders up for a potential suspension.  It's definitely a step in the right direction for the NHL to define what you can and can't do while on the ice.

That's small consolation though to the Boston Bruins and their fans, considering one of their best forwards is really hurting and doesn't have a high standard of life right now, let alone a timetable to return to the ice.  For a team right on the playoff bubble, an absent Savard could tip the scales of their whole season in a negative way, just as Florida losing their leading goal scorer for such a long time hurt their chances for post-season play.  And no matter how long you suspend the hitter, that's something the hitee and their team can't get back.

The Penguins play in Boston on March 18th, and barring injury it's likely Cooke will have to deal with thousands of jeering fans and a group of angry players.  Of Cooke's three fights this season, two are against New York Rangers, including one on the night that Cooke hit Artem Anisimov.  It seems likely on 3/18 that Cooke will have to answer the bell again, and perhaps in whatever small form, it'll be a chance for some small measure of vengeance.