WILMINGTON - The last time the Bruins hosted the Canadiens at TD Garden, on Dec. 19, Milan Lucic was a spectator.
The reason? The left wing was serving a one-game suspension for his hit on the Flyers’ Zac Rinaldo two nights earlier.
After the Bruins’ brief, crisp practice at Ristuccia Arena yesterday in preparation for tonight’s game against the Habs at TD Garden, Lucic said he was looking forward to having a direct role in the outcome rather than serving as a cheerleader.
“That was one of the most interesting, longest days of my career,’’ said Lucic. “Just getting ready for a game and waiting to hear if you were going to play or not, and then finding out at, like, 2:30 in the afternoon that you’re not playing.
“It was an interesting one, but the boys were able to still get it done and have a good game and get the win out of that one.’’
As disappointing as it was to be relegated to the sidelines for the Bruins’ 3-2 win, there were some points Lucic could take away from watching from the press box.
“When you watch from up top, it looks like you have a lot of space and you see a lot of openings and all that type of stuff,’’ he said. “For myself, just looking and seeing what the areas [are] that I need to go into to be successful and get results.
“That’s what I tried to take out of that game more than anything - see what areas and what positions I could put myself into to help out my linemates and my teammates. I felt like it helped after that a little bit.’’
One area where the Bruins have been stellar has been the pace at which they play. Watching the game illustrated that to Lucic.
“I don’t want to really toot our own horns, but it seems like our team is playing at a much higher pace and a faster pace and I think that’s what has been paying big dividends into our game,’’ he said. “We have to keep that.
“As you saw [Tuesday], if we do that, we have a third period like we did, and if we don’t, we have the first two periods like we did.
“When our feet are moving and we’re hunting the puck, and when we’re first to the puck and winning battles, that’s what I noticed from up top more than anything, that’s when we’re most successful.’’
If the fallout from the Bruins’ latest meeting with the Canucks has overshadowed their rivalry with the Habs a bit, Lucic said that will all change tonight.
“Obviously, when we play the Montreal Canadiens, there’s never a lack of emotions on both sides,’’ said Lucic. “We know they’re a desperate hockey club right now. They’re a team that plays well against us whether it’s in Montreal or Boston so we’re going to expect their best and we need to bring our best as well.’’
Up for it
Coach Claude Julien, who hopes to wrap up a four-game homestand with a victory tonight before embarking on a four-game road trip, said the Habs continue to present a challenge despite the fact that Boston won the last two meetings after dropping the first two. “They come at you well,’’ said Julien. “The one thing they seem to do is give us good games all the time, just like certain teams match up better against others. They feel confident when they play against us and they play a style that gives us some issues and we have to really battle hard to beat those guys.’’ . . . The Bruins will be without Brad Marchand again as he serves the second game of a five-game suspension. Marchand practiced with the fourth line yesterday with Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly, and Zach Hamill. The challenge will be to keep Marchand from getting rusty. “He’s got to stay sharp,’’ said Julien. “He’s got to work harder than anybody else during practice. He’s got to find a way to keep the sharpness in his game. It’s not a bad thing to play with other players on your team, too. We want him to be with us, we want him to be in practice situations, so he can stay as sharp as he can.’’
Hit the road
The Bruins play six of their next seven games on the road after tonight, leading to the All-Star break. “We know how tough those road games are to start with, so you want to get as many points as you can at home,’’ Julien said. “You’d also like to establish yourself as a team that is hard to beat at home. The start of the year kind of set us a little bit behind the 8-ball there, but we’ve managed to climb ourselves back to a decent home record [15-7-1].’’ . . . Julien is sympathetic to the situation in which new coach Randy Cunneyworth finds himself in Montreal. Cunneyworth came under fire for not being able to speak French but he is working to learn the language. “I feel for him a little bit,’’ said Julien. “He’s been picked on for not being able to speak the language. At the same time, the most important thing for him is to right the ship in Montreal. I think the people, knowing them over there, will certainly appreciate his making an effort to learn the language. When you look at the province and you look at the followers, a lot of it is about French. Media-wise, if I came in here and couldn’t speak English, it would certainly make [the media’s] job pretty hard. You’ve got to understand both sides of it. For Randy, I’ve known him for a while, and if he says he’s going to learn the language, he will.’’ . . . Marc Savard, a non-roster player still suffering from post-concussion symptoms, will host a luxury suite at TD Garden for pediatric patients at Children’s Hospital Boston. Savard purchased the suite for every Bruins home game for the remainder of this season through the 2013-14 season.