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Lucic suspended for 1 game

Punishment is for his hit on Rinaldo

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By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / December 20, 2011
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The long arm of NHL law, also known as head disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, caught up with the Bruins yesterday when left winger Milan Lucic was suspended one game for his hit from behind on the Flyers’ Zac Rinaldo Saturday in Philadelphia.

Lucic, 23, who received a five-minute major-game misconduct for the hit, sat out last night’s 3-2 victory over the Canadiens at the Garden but will return Friday when the Bruins face the Panthers on home ice in their last game before the Christmas break.

According to Shanahan, who earlier this season did not suspend Lucic for a controversial hit on Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, the onus was on Lucic not to hit Rinaldo, simply because Rinaldo’s back was to him as he faced the boards moments after he had helped deliver a check on Lucic’s linemate Nathan Horton.

Shanahan emphasized that because Lucic could read Rinaldo’s sweater number, he should have “avoided the hit completely, or minimized it.’’

“It [expletive] to sit out a game for an incident like this,’’ said Lucic, noting that he didn’t like the suspension but respected Shanahan’s decision. “For myself, it’s a good time to sit back and watch a game against our rivals and see how we do.’’

Lucic said he did “everything I can do’’ to try to hit Rinaldo’s shoulder and not hit him from behind.

“You can see his legs and body turn as he goes into the boards,’’ Lucic said. “If I hit him from behind, he would have gone [into the boards] head-first.’’

Lucic was suspended for one game during the 2009 playoffs when he used his glove and stick to smack then-Canadiens center Max Lapierre in the face after a stop in play. Now that he has been suspended for the Rinaldo hit, it’s highly likely that similar or more egregious hits will lead to suspensions of greater length for Lucic.

Rinaldo was not hurt on the play, which Shanahan indicated was a factor in his sentencing.

“I do everything in my power to keep it clean out there,’’ said Lucic, noting how the league has shown all players video on acceptable and non-acceptable hits. “I try my full-on best to follow those rules.’’

Much to the ire of Sabres fans and Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff, Miller was sidelined for days after being hit by Lucic when the goalie strayed far from his net to field a puck that entered his zone on Lucic’s wing. Lucic received a two-minute minor on the play and then received no discipline after Shanahan’s review.

Shanahan is attempting to clean up a game that in recent years has turned into seek-and-destroy hockey, leading to many concussions, some of which likely have ended careers (see: Marc Savard). Overall, Lucic said he believes Shanahan’s decisions are helping.

“It’s good to get in the backs of players’ minds,’’ he said. “The NHL isn’t a place to be running around recklessly anymore.’’

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said he felt Lucic’s prior transgressions contributed to Shanahan’s decision.

“Brendan didn’t say it,’’ said Chiarelli, “but I think if this was [Lucic’s] first incident, he wouldn’t have been suspended.’’

Like they draw it up

As of yesterday morning, the Bruins ranked No. 1 overall when it came to winning faceoffs - 55.3 percent of them to be exact. San Jose (53.9) and Chicago (52.6) weren’t far behind the quick-draw Bruins.

“You’ve heard me talk a lot about that,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien, whose club won 28 of 52 faceoffs last night. “Every time we have a full morning skate, we’re always taking draws. If you win those draws, you’re starting with the puck. It’s a lot better than chasing it and it’s maybe a small part of the game that gets overlooked.’’

To lose draws, emphasized Julien, often means “you’re chasing a lot more than you are controlling the game.’’

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, ranked fourth overall yesterday with 362 wins at the dot, credits his one-time junior coach, ex-NHL center Marc Bureau, with stressing the importance of winning draws and practicing the art.

“I take a lot of pride in it,’’ said Bergeron, who won 8 of 14 last night and before the game ranked only behind the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews and the Canucks’ Manny Malhotra for win percentage among the game’s workhorse faceoff men. “Strength is a big part of it, and you have to be quick.’’

When first up from junior hockey, Bergeron noted, then-Bruins Travis Green and Joe Thornton also worked with him on improving his faceoff skills, and then-coach Mike Sullivan (now an assistant with the Rangers) made it a point of emphasis.

Language barrier?

Are new Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth’s days already numbered? If the government in Quebec has its way. Cunneyworth, hired Saturday after Jacques Martin was fired, does not speak French, creating a firestorm among Francophones in Canada. The province’s culture minister, Christine St-Pierre, said the team has given the impression that Cunneyworth is only a temporary hire. But Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said Cunneyworth, a Toronto native, “is a qualified and experienced coach’’ who has the respect of the players. Molson said language would be a factor when, at the end of the season, the team hires a permanent coach . . . The Canadiens put more pucks on net than the Bruins, 35-31 . . . Zach Hamill didn’t pick up a point, but he continues to impress Julien,who moved the young forward to the left wing spot on the No. 1 line with David Krejci and Horton later in the game. “He keeps making smart plays and he’s working hard,’’ said Julien. “He’s in the lineup because right now he deserves to be in the lineup.’’. . . Canadiens winger Mathieu Darche had a game-high five hits. The Bruins held a slight edge, 26-24, in overall hits, led by Shawn Thornton’s three . . . The Bruins will not practice today and have tomorrow and Thursday to prep for the arrival of the Panthers here Friday night . . . The Bruins began the night with the league’s ninth-ranked power play, clicking at 19 percent, after going an impressive 6 for 17 on the man-advantage in the previous four games (including 3 for 8 in Saturday’s 6-0 pasting of the Flyers). They also were third overall in penalty killing with an 88.5 percent success rate, ranking only behind the Devils (92.5) and the Habs (88.8). Both the Devils and Canadiens have been abysmal this year on the power play . . . Ex-Bruin Petteri Nokelainen was schooled by Rich Peverley in the circle on Benoit Pouliot’s goal that gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Peverley beat Nokelainen on a draw in the right wing circle and then dished in front for Pouliot to knock a forehander into the open left side.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.

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