WILMINGTON - Milan Lucic was champing at the bit yesterday after the Bruins’ quick, efficient practice at Ristuccia Arena.
Lucic, who served a one-game suspension on Monday while his teammates beat the Canadiens, hasn’t played since last Saturday’s matinee in Philadelphia, when he was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit on Zac Rinaldo. Lucic will be back in the lineup tonight when the Bruins host the Panthers.
“I can’t change my game,’’ said Lucic. “I play with a lot of emotion and I do everything I can to keep it safe and follow the guidelines of the new hitting protocol. Obviously, a big part of my game is being physical and creating emotion and I can’t lose that, that’s for sure.’’
During a telephone hearing with NHL dean of discipline Brendan Shanahan Monday morning, Lucic said he wanted to have his side heard in that he wasn’t attempting to injure Rinaldo.
“Obviously, I was upset that I had to go through that whole process again,’’ said Lucic. “[Shanahan’s] not a guy you want to talk to too much for those reasons. I wanted to make clear to him that I do understand what he’s trying to do and I want to make clear that I understand and I’m doing everything I can to not make dangerous hits. That’s one thing I did try to do in the conversation.’’
Coach Claude Julien doesn’t expect Lucic to alter his playing style in order to avoid getting in trouble.
“I hope not,’’ said Julien. “I know we’re going to make sure we let him know that we don’t want him to change his style. That suspension was because of different things. One was a playoff thing that had nothing to do with a hit, the other one was a collision with [Sabres goalie Ryan] Miller, which maybe at the time, when they look back, they maybe should have called him for that and it probably would have diminished maybe the suspension of this last one. But we’re going to ask him to go out and play the same way. We’re a physical team and we don’t want that element to creep out of our game. I don’t think the NHL wants that element to creep out of the game. They’re trying to obviously manage it the best they can but we certainly don’t want players playing afraid of finishing their checks.’’
Lucic said he tried to take something positive out of a difficult situation.
“You never want to miss any games due to a suspension,’’ he said. “From one end, it was good that I was able to kind of sit back and go upstairs and watch. You get a different view of the game. It looks real easy from up there. It’s definitely exciting to get back. This part of the season, it was nice for me also to kind of get some rest and heal up a little bit and be ready to go [tonight].’’
Gregory Campbell said he was none the worse for wear after returning to the lineup Monday despite still recovering from a fractured foot that forced him to miss three games.
“It’s going to take a while,’’ said Campbell. “Broken bones tend to take four weeks probably to totally heal, but for now it’s not an issue, it’s not bothering me.’’
Campbell is familiar with tonight’s opponents. He was drafted by the Panthers in the third round (67th overall) in 2002 and played 363 games with Florida before being traded to Boston prior to last season. He said he’s happy about the team’s turnaround.
“They’ve had a lot of high draft picks,’’ said Campbell. “[General manager Dale Tallon] had success in Chicago and he’s a smart hockey man. He made the right moves. Florida is not a bad place to play. Obviously, it’s not a hockey market like Boston is or some of the teams up north, but they work hard and I hear good things about their coach [Kevin Dineen].
“It’s nice to see they’re doing well. It’s tough to sell the game down there because not a lot of people are originally from Florida. If they win, which they’re doing now, you’re always going to attract fans. I know that organization works really hard to put people in the stands and I think the easiest way to do that is to win.’’
The Bruins last played the Panthers Dec. 8, losing 2-0. Since then, Boston has rattled off five straight victories.
“I think they’re catching a lot of teams by surprise,’’ said Campbell. “A lot of teams might not have taken them seriously. When we played them, they played a smart road game.’’
Ference back on ice
Defenseman Andrew Ference, who missed Wednesday’s practice because of the flu, was back on the ice . . . Forward Rich Peverley missed a second straight day of practice. Julien doesn’t know if Peverley will play tonight. “It’s a little nagging injury that doesn’t stop him from playing, but sometimes rest does a lot of good,’’ said the coach.Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.