BOSTON – Although he's accepted his one-game suspension with the utmost humility, Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic hopes this punishment for his hit from behind on Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo and the decision by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan don't tarnish the reputation the left winger has worked his career to build.
Shanahan said in his explanation of his decision Monday that Lucic's past, which included a phone hearing for his hit on Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller earlier this season, factored into the suspension.
"As far as my history is concerned, obviously I think you look at the five years I've been here, I’ve led the team in hits for all those years. And this is the first time that I've ever had a hearing or a suspension when it comes down to a hit. Take aside the hit on the goalie, I'm talking about a hit on the players. I do everything in my power to keep it clean out there," said Lucic, whose one prior NHL suspension came during the 2009 playoffs after a high hit in a scrum.
"I remember even earlier this year, one of the Boston reporters came up to me and asked me 'Is the reason why you're not playing as physical as the years before because of the new rules and the clarity of it?' And I answered the question, 'Yes.' Obviously he put out some pretty clear videos of what is a suspension and what isn't, and I try my full-on best to follow those rules."
Lucic, whose history also includes a $3,500 fine last December for a punch after the linesman had intervened in an altercation, said he explained to Shanahan that he tried to make sure the hit wasn't from behind. Rinaldo was also quoted as saying he didn't think the hit warranted a ban.
“Obviously I support the League's attempt at addressing player safety," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "And I think Milan might have explained to you … if you look at it closely, I feel that he … did change his game, so to speak, on that check. I thought he stopped skating. If you looked at his left arm going in, I thought he tried to lever him so that he could hit him in the crest, and I don't think he hit him as hard as he normally does. Milan's a guy whose led our team in hits, I think, since he's been here, and he's very rarely been penalized with boarding, hit from behind – the roughing stuff. He's a clean player, and that's what the law is now, so we'll abide by it."
Lucic expressed disappointment about not being able to face Montreal tonight at the TD Garden. But overall, he's been impressed by Shanahan and the League's effort to get dangerous checks out of the game.
"I think it's good that it's in the back of players' minds now, that the NHL is not a place just to be running around recklessly anymore," he said. "And I think that's a good thing. And it's good to see they're aware to keep the game safer and to try to take head injuries ultimately out of the game because you don't want to see anyone, your teammate or an opponent, go through any troubles with concussion problems or anything like that."