PITTSBURGH - Just two weeks left in the regular season, which means two things:
Time to start preparing for the playoffs, and time to clean out the notebook:
The Penguins' wholehearted endorsement of Matt Cooke's suspension still didn't shield the organization from criticism.
Columnist Damien Cox of the Toronto Star wrote this, referencing Lemieux's letter to NHL general managers advocating harsher penalties for hits to the head:
"The league, you should know, interpreted the timing of the leaked letter from Lemieux last week as an attempt to embarrass commissioner Gary Bettman. Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero, meanwhile, made it clear after the GM meetings that he didn't agree with his colleagues, and believed the league needed to be far more aggressive in legislating against head shots.
"Perhaps Lemieux and Shero were simply speaking their consciences and should be recognized for their honesty. But their industry friends and competitors sure didn't see it that way.
"Lemieux, unfortunately, missed a fine opportunity to speak on the Cooke issue on Monday, instead handing off that job to Shero. Too bad. It would have been more significant coming from No. 66, whose voice on NHL matters will now never again resonate in quite the same way."
The NHL banned Cooke for the last 10 regular season games, plus the first round of the playoffs. That's a minimum of 14 games and perhaps as many as 17.
Shero said the Penguins believe that Cooke will attempt to change his game, and said the organization stands behind him.
That's fine for public consumption, but bet that the Penguins will do their best to deal Cooke this off-season.
He's reached a point where another incident could get him suspended for 20 games, about a quarter of the regular season.
That's a headache the Penguins don't need, especially when they're leading the crusade against head shots.
When it all shakes down, Matt Cooke will probably be playing somewhere else.
If there's been anything good about the injuries that have beset the team this year, it's been that inexperienced players have had a chance to step up.
Jeffrey and Letestu have gotten ice time because Jordan Staal was sidelined for the first half of the season and Sidney Crosby has been out since Jan. 5.
Brooks Orpik's recent finger injury has led to more ice time for defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who has embraced the opportunity.
"This is fun," Lovejoy said. "It took a while, but I feel like I've gained a lot of confidence. The last 10 or 11 games, I feel like I've really taken advantage of the opportunity I've had."
Michel Therrien's contract with the Penguins is running out, and so is his time in Pittsburgh.
Therrien is moving back to his native Montreal, where his widowed mother lives.
His daughter, Elizabeth, will stay behind with a family so she can graduate from Chartiers Valley High School later this spring.
Therrien has been working as a scout for the Minnesota Wild this season and has been a frequent visitor to the Consol Energy Center for games.
Pete Laframboise, a left wing for the Penguins in 1974-75, died of congestive heart failure in Ottawa on March 19 at 61.
Laframboise appeared in 35 games for the Penguins, scoring five goals and 18 points. He also played in nine playoff games that year.
That season represented the end of his NHL career. He played in 17 games for Edmonton in the WHA, but was otherwise in the minor leagues until his retirement in 1979.