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Cooke Adds Energy to Penguins Lineup

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Matt Cooke finally scored his first goal as a Pittsburgh Penguin against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night after going scoreless in his first 15 games.


“You don’t want it lingering too long,” Cooke said. “It starts to wear on you a little bit. We’ve been getting chances and our lines been doing well. Confidence builds confidence. It was nice to get it over with.”

But there are plenty of players in the Penguins locker room that can score with players like Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Miroslav Satan. Cooke was brought to Pittsburgh because of his intensity and tenacity.

He is a rugged, gritty winger that plays physical and isn’t afraid of contact. He plays at full speed and does the dirty work necessary to win hockey games.

“I’m a guy that wants to go out there and create energy for my team, help the team win no matter what,” Cooke said. “If that’s through creating energy and creating a spark, then so be it. It’s a part of my game.

“I play physical. I look to take the body when its there. It’s a part of my game to get in on the forecheck and make the defenseman look over their shoulder.”

But Cooke is also contributing on the scoresheet with four points (1G-3A) in the past three games while skating alongside Tyler Kennedy and Jordan Staal.

“I’m starting to build quite a bit of chemistry with those two guys,” Cooke said. “When you go on the ice, you know where they’re going to be. You know what we’re trying to accomplish. That makes the game easy. That makes the game fun.”

At 30 years old, Cooke is the grandfather of the trio compared to youngsters Kennedy (22) and Staal (20). He’s tried to pass some of his experience and knowledge to his partners.

“I’m talking on the bench all the time with those two making sure we understand each other,” Cooke said. “We communicate well. That’s something I’ve learned, being around for a couple of years. You’re going to have mistakes and times when you’re not on the same page but if you can communicate through those, the next time it happens it’s different. Then you can do it the way you want.”

Cooke scored 83 goals and 120 assists for 203 points in nine seasons with Vancouver, before the Canucks traded him to Washington in February. He notched seven points in 17 games with the Capitals. But when he became a free agent, Cooke knew where he wanted to play.

We had an opportunity to come to Pittsburgh. That was our first choice. - Matt Cooke
“We had an opportunity to come to Pittsburgh; that was our first choice,” said Cooke, who signed a two-year contract in the offseason. “(Pittsburgh is) a completely underrated city. We’re more than comfortable here and actually, really enjoy it.”

Cooke has only been a Pittsburgh resident for a few months but he’s already inundated himself in the local culture.

“We’ve done the Carnegie Museum, Science (Center), the Zoo," Cooke said. "“There’s lots to do here for the kids. You try to do as much as you can when we’re home to spend time with them. They’re adjusting well. It’s a fun place to be.”

In fact, Cooke’s three children – Gabby, Reece and Jackson – are never too far from his mind, nor his body for that matter.

“A friend of ours runs a company in Vancouver that does tattooed shirts,” Cooke said. “She put my kids names on the back of my shirts because at the end of the day, that’s what everything is for. If you don’t have family, you have nothing.”

Cooke’s creed inspired him to establish the Cooke Family Foundation of Hope (www.foundationofhope.ca) in 2006 following a family tragedy.

“We lost a niece at 38 weeks,” Cooke said. “She was stillborn so she’s kind of the inspiration behind it. Our goal is to help women and children.”

The Foundation, which is currently registered only in Canada, is a non-profit that raises funds through donations "to provide assistance to individuals faced with health, financial and emotional life changes," according to the official website.

“We’re in the process of getting registered in the U.S.,” Cooke said. “It’s been a cool venture for my wife and an opportunity to give back. In the past we’ve done a suite in Vancouver for every game, given to kids, not necessarily just sick kids, but kids in need, kids that wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity.”

There is quite a soft side to a guy that plays so wreck-less on the ice.

“People wouldn’t necessarily know that the way they see me on the ice,” Cooke said. “I’m an old soul that way.”



 
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