NBC SPORTS - Minnesota forward Matt Cooke will play in his 1,000th career NHL contest on Tuesday when the Wild host the Oilers at Xcel.
For one of the most polarizing players in the last decade, the achievement will likely be met with mixed responses.
First, the positive. Playing in 1,000 career contests is no small feat, as fewer than 300 players have accomplished it in NHL history. Cooke's done it playing for four different teams (Vancouver, Washington, Pittsburgh and Minnesota) and has to be credited with reinventing himself following a rash of disciplinary issues, which included scoring a career-high 19 goals with Pittsburgh during the 2011-12 campaign — when he was 33 years old.
Of course, many have difficulty separating Cooke's accomplishments from the incidents that marred his career.
He essentially ended Marc Savard's playing days with a blindside hit in 2010, an incident that still resonates with the Bruins. The Savard incident failed to change Cooke, though — during the 2010-11 season, Cooke became the league's poster boy for dirty play with a pair of suspensions for ugly hits, the final straw coming with an elbow to the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, which saw Cooke get suspended for 10 regular season games and the entire opening playoff round.
That was the culmination of a span in which Cooke was suspended five times, four of which were for hits to the head.
As mentioned above, the McDonagh suspension did change things for Cooke, and he deserves credit for acknowledging the problems with his game, fixing them, and managing to thrive as one of the league's older players (Cooke turned 35 in September.) He has 24 points in 64 games for the Wild this season while averaging close to 16 minutes per night.