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Regier's e-mail applauds Cooke's penalty

Darcy Regier, probably more than any other general manager in the NHL, abhors head shots. He pushed for their complete elimination during last week's GM meetings, and he doubtlessly was one of the men urging stiffer punishment for repeat offenders.

That's why the Sabres' general manager typed an e-mail Monday as soon he heard league disciplinarian Colin Campbell had suspended Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for an elbow to the noggin of an opponent.

"I sent Colin an e-mail after it came out yesterday applauding him and the National Hockey League for taking that kind of action," Regier said Tuesday. "It was appropriate, measured, and I believe it will act as a deterrent not only for Matt Cooke in the future but for all other players."

The league generally had been issuing two-game sitdowns -- or, in some instances, none at all -- for blows to the head. The GMs told Campbell last week they wanted longer sentences handed down, and he delivered with the possible 17-game ban for one of the NHL's most notorious offenders.

"It was well-deserved," Sabres right wing Jason Pominville said in Bell Centre before facing the Montreal Canadiens. "You see this around the league, they want to take it away. It's not the first time he's had hits like that, and I think those kind of punishments should have been done earlier on to prevent these kind of incidents.

"By them doing this and sending a message, I think the message is clear: They don't want anything to do with head shots."

The suspension was the fifth for Cooke, who will forfeit nearly $220,000 in salary. He will miss the Penguins' final 10 games and between four and seven contests in the playoffs for raising his elbow at the head of the New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh.

"I realize and understand, more so now than ever, that I need to change," Cooke told reporters in Pittsburgh. "I made a mistake, and I'm the one who's accountable for that, and I take full responsibility for it."

The fact it was a player with a known track record surely made Campbell's decision easier. Even Penguins GM Ray Shero commended the penalty.

"He made it a little bit easier on them, but I think it was well-deserved," Pominville said. "There was no need for him to finish his hit, let alone put the elbow there. He could've hurt the guy real bad."

Said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff: "He can miss 17 games, that's a pretty good message. I think any guy that has a head shot in his history now, a deliberate attempt, the message is pretty clear. I think that's a good message to have."

Pominville suffered a concussion this season when he was hit by Chicago's Niklas Hjarmalsson, who got a two-game ban.

"The players should have a little more respect within each other than maybe we have right now," Pominville said. "By sending a message like they did to him, instead of a two-game or something like that -- two games is kind of a break for some guys, it's not long enough -- but by doing what they did to Cooke, I think it sends a message that's pretty clear. Everybody can only be happy about what's being sent."

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The Sabres visited the Canadiens without forward Jochen Hecht and defenseman Steve Montador. Hecht missed his fourth straight game and eighth in the last 10 with an upper-body injury. Montador skipped his second in a row with a lower-body ailment.

The Sabres host Florida on Friday and New Jersey on Saturday, and Ruff said he's hopeful both players will be back.

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The Sabres, who finished a run of three games in four nights, are likely to take today off before returning to practice Thursday. That is also the day of the Rick Martin memorial service. It will start at 11 a.m. in HSBC Arena.

Doors will open at 10 a.m., and the service is expected to last one hour. Seating will be general admission, with a stage positioned in front of the player benches. There will be free parking available in the Sabres' surface lots on Perry Street.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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