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Three Days of Practice Before Anaheim

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
12:49 p.m.

Milan Lucic missed practice for a non-hockey related issue and will be back to practice tomorrow.

12:32 p.m.
Hunwick & Wheeler
Matt Kalman ( and I were talking to Matt Hunwick (5'11, 190-pounds) after practice  about his turn today as a forward.

Hunwick had me, Kalman and much of the Boston hockey press in stitches when, in deference to Milan Lucic (6'4, 220-pounds), he playfully ended an answer to the question: How difficult is the transition from defense to forward?

"You just try to do the opposite [you would on D]," he said. "As a defenseman, you're trying to take the puck away.

"As a forward I try to make it as game-like as possible, just trying to be strong on the puck.

"I think a lot of the other stuff, line rushes and stuff, we normally do and those aren't too bad to make the transition."

As far as taking a spot on the first line, filling in for #17?

"Things where there are competitions and battles, that's where I have to bear down and make sure I kind of try to emulate Luch as best as possible," he said.

Smiles all around.

11:48 a.m.
Observation: For a defenseman, Matt Hunwick is pretty good forward. And talk about determination in practice. The Michigan grad has boatloads...

11:42 a.m.
Tuukka Rask just displayed some of the fire that Coach Julien talked about last week. In a meaningless tip drill, Tuukka let in a tough one and slammed his goal paddle against the net.

On Saturday, Julien was asked if he thought that Rask's practice habits had improved since joining the Bruins.

"Well they’ve changed, I think there’s no doubt about that," he said. "We’ll nitpick at those things, and sometimes it’s not about criticizing a guy, it’s more about this is what he needs to do and that comes with experience, that comes with a guy maturing as a person, as an athlete.

"And Tuukka has done that, from year one to year three now if you want to put it that way.

"He’s a much different goaltender in practices. I even see him reacting to letting in a bad goal. He’s getting mad. I like that, because before it was just another goal, and that’s what maturing is all about," he said.

Julien has often said he admires Thomas' tenacity in drills and practices and he repeated that praise..

"Timmy [Thomas] is like that, Dominik Hasek was like that, never wanted to get scored on even in a pregame warm up," said Julien. "Those guys are hard competitors and I think Tuukka is getting into a little bit of that mode where he doesn’t like to let goals go in, and that bodes well for his future."

11:37 a.m.
With practice winding down, Claude Julien is officiating over a pretty good faceoff practice session between Patrice Bergeron and Steve Begin. Lots of smiles and, no doubt, some colorful French metaphors are being thrown into the mix.

11:02 a.m.
Strange sight. Chuck Kobasew is sitting on the ice in full gear - no athletic socks, no skates. There must be some sort of blade issue, but it's odd to see.

10:47 a.m.
Milan Lucic is not dressed for this morning's practice. Matt Hunwick is playing as a forward on Marc Savard's line.

10:24 a.m.
The Warriors Code

Despite the ferocity with which he plies his trade, and like many of his fellow pugilistic experts in the NHL, Boston Bruins Shawn Thornton follows a code. The code is not written down, and it is often difficult -- even in a general sense – to spell out its tenants in any rational fashion. Moreover, there are times when even the most rational sports fan might not be able to discern what exactly the NHL’s policemen should do in a given situation.

But the code is The Code and that is that. And while that code distributes destruction on a consistent basis, there is a fairness about it that usually helps keep games in hand, even if that integrity is not especially fair to the guys throwing their fists.

Take Saturday. After Carolina's Andrew Alberts meted out some physical punishment to Bruins playmakers Marco Sturm and Marc Savard, Thornton, the B's well respected beat cop and Albert's former teammate, came a calling.

It was, of course, not a friendly visit and it is safe to say that Alberts felt properly chastised.

"I think Albe [Andrew Alberts] plays on the edge," said the Thornton a few decibels under his usual speaking tone, postgame. "He’s a hardnosed player."

Thornton is a hardnosed player himself, able to give and take the best of the NHL's punches. But despite the facial scar tissue, stitch marks and permanently bruised knuckles, one wonders what Shawn must have felt mentally or internally when it became apparent that he needed to balance the scale.

But he knew, just as sure as the most novice of the Garden’s partisans knew, that justice would be passed out in a violent fashion.

"I thought there were a couple of questionable hits so I felt it needed to be addressed," said Thornton. By addressed, Thornton meant the dressing down he gave his friend -- an act that included several well placed punches to Albert's forehead.

"We are buddies obviously; he just said that was for the play on Savvy, when Savvy ran me after I hit Sturmy," said Alberts."It is just part of the game and we will be friends after it."

One must wonder aloud: How? But the eternally gregarious (and forthright and honest) Thornton spoke to the media about the situation very quietly, but very directly and gave a very similar answer.

"It is not fun when you have to fight a friend," said Thornton unequivocally. "I think it was very big of him to step up and get them (the gloves) off, so credit to him."

Like Thornton, Alberts remained philosophical about the bout, even while wearing some of the signs of his friends punches to the head.

"It is just a part of hockey," said the Carolina defenseman. "Sometimes there are bad hits and good hits.

"Things happen. It is just part of the game."

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view,) it really is a pivotal and popular part of the professional game. But it seems clear that unless you are a member of a professionally hockey team, you might never understand how utterly important Thornton's role is to a club.

"We always talk about sticking up for each other," said Savard of his role in the dust up. "I thought it was a dirty hit from what I saw."

Savard explained that part of Bruins hockey is protecting anyone in Black & Gold.

"You are always going to stick up for your teammates," he said. "They would do the same for me especially Thornton and Lucic. We just tried to help out and everyone came in and that is part of being a team."

"Sometimes when the score gets up that high, there’s frustration," said Claude Julien, a veteran of many skirmishes of his own during his playing days. "You look at [Andrew] Alberts cross-checking [Marco] Sturm and fighting to survive, but it’s frustration.

“I have no issues with that.”

"That’s just a team with character just reacting to not liking what’s happening to them.  That’s why they got as far as they did last year because they don’t give up. No matter what the score is, they’re going to fight, and that’s why you have to give that team credit," he said.

Julien, for sure, gave his own team much credit for their handling of the day’s events. As for his own job, clearly Thornton did what the game deemed necessary.

"If you play that game then sometimes you have to answer the bell, and that’s all that was," he said.

That said, let's hope that Thornton (and Alberts) are laughing about all of this someday. Right?
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