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Wild's Cooke hits milestone; Oilers' Klefbom to debut

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke will play in his 1,000th NHL game Tuesday when the Wild host the Edmonton Oilers (8 p.m. ET, TSN).

Cooke will become the 286th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000 games and the fourth to do it as a member of the Wild. Prior to the game, Cooke will receive a silver stick from the Wild and a crystal from NHL executive Jim Gregory.

"I never would have guessed it way back when I started this," Cooke, 35, said. "It's been a roller coaster at times, but I'm thankful for where I'm at. It's a big accomplishment for me."

Cooke, who made his NHL debut with the Vancouver Canucks against the Oilers in 1998, has been suspended by the League five times for conduct on the ice and has been one of the most controversial players of his era.

After elbowing New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the jaw in March 2011, Cooke was suspended 10 games and the entire first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was at that point, Cooke has said, he knew he needed to change his game. Between January 2009 and the incident with McDonagh two years later, Cooke was suspended four times. He hasn't been suspended since.

"There's times where the risk just isn't worth the reward," Cooke said. "I've had to do a lot of video work and try to reshape my brain to view the game a little bit differently so that I could create some longevity."

Cooke has played in all 64 games this season after signing a three-year contract with the Wild as a free agent last summer. After spending years as one of the League's great agitators, Cooke has become one of the leaders in a locker room with nine players under the age of 25.

"Just his overall presence in the room, he's a guy that's going to stand up and be heard," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "And you know he's going to back it up on the ice."

While Cooke will be playing in his 1,000th game, Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom will be making his NHL debut.

Klefbom is in his first season in North America after playing in his native Sweden since being selected by Edmonton with the 19th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. In 45 games with the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League, Klefbom has one goal and eight assists.

"I'm a first-rounder so I have some pressure on me," Klefbom said. "But I like the pressure. It makes me a better player."

Klefbom will play alongside captain Andrew Ference, who has played more than 800 games in the League. Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said he hopes having a veteran next to him will help Klefbom with any nerves he may have.

"I'm sure he's going to have first-game jitters," Eakins said.

Edmonton will start Viktor Fasth in goal. Acquired from the Anaheim Ducks last Wednesday for a pair of third-round picks, Fasth will see his first NHL action since November. He won 15 games as a rookie with the Ducks last season and has played five games this season because of lower-body injuries.

Here are the projected lineups for the Oilers and Wild:


Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - David Perron

Nail Yakupov - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu

Luke Gazdic - Ryan Smyth - Ryan Jones

Mark Fraser - Justin Schultz

Martin Marincin - Jeff Petry

Oscar Klefbom - Andrew Ference

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Philip Larsen

Injured: Anton Belov (oblique)


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Matt Moulson - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Nino Niederreiter

Dany Heatley - Erik Haula - Cody McCormick

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Marco Scandella

Keith Ballard - Nate Prosser

Darcy Kuemper

Ilya Bryzgalov

Scratched: Mike Rupp, Justin Fontaine, Clayton Stoner

Injured: Jason Zucker (lower body), Josh Harding (illness), Niklas Backstrom (abdominal)

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