Ahead of the Canadiens-Bruins game Monday night in Boston, the first game of the Habs’ longest stretch of road games this season, the NHL exonerated Erik Cole on Sunday for a check he delivered to New Jersey’s Adam Larsson Saturday night in which Larsson was struck in the head.
At the same time, Bruins winger Milan Lucic will have a telephone hearing on Monday for a hit he delivered to Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo in the Bruins’ 6-0 win over the Flyers Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.
Cole received a two minute penalty for an illegal check to the head of the Devils rookie defenceman.
Announcing that Cole would not receive supplemental discipline Sunday, Shanahan said, “We reviewed this play extensively. The overriding factor in this two-minute minor penalty not receiving further supplemental discipline is the significant change of position to Larsson’s head as he bends over and lunges for the puck just prior or simultaneous to the check by Erik Cole.”
Asked in his post game remarks after the game whether he was concerned about what might happen to Cole, Canadiens coach Randy Cunnyworth said (audio), “To be fair to Erik, the player (Larsson) was screened by the net, if that has anything to do with it, plus he was lunging forward, so he was a lower target. And I don’t think Erik Cole is the type of guy that would target the head. There’s no reason for it. He’s a veteran player who knows better. I think he was just trying to compete, play hard and he got caught in a bad position.”
Apparently Shanahan agreed.
As for Lucic, he will speak with Shanahan about this incident in the second period with the Bruins in command of the game that earned a boarding major and a game misconduct.
Rinaldo was not injured on the play and Lucic believes he’ll get off. “I felt like I made every effort to take him out laterally,’’ Lucic told The Boston Globe. “I looked at the video and slow-mo’ed it and looked at the point of contact. There was no numbers. It was all shoulders. You could see his body rotating because I took him from the right side.’’
Julien believes his player will not be punished further, saying Rinaldo turned at the last instant into the hit and that Lucic eased up, which is what the league has advised players to do in those situations.
As for Monday’s game, the B’s will be trying to win their fifth straight game. They have lost only twice in regulation since the start of November are tied with the Flyers for first place in the East. They are 10 points up on the last-place Habs in the Northeast Division.
The Bruins’ penalty kill is in a groove. Perfect against the Flyers in six disadvantages, they’ve gone 43-for-45 in the last 11 games and rank third in the league, right behind the Habs.
Their power play, which was had been sputering until recently, clicked for three goals against Philly, and is at 19 percent, ninth in the league.
It’s possible Julien will go to Tuukka Rask instead of Tim Thomas. Thomas played the last two games and since early November, Thomas has only played three consecutive games once.
The Bruins have some bruises that might affect their lineup. Rich Peverley didn’t play much in the third period against the Flyers, and didn’t practice Sunday; Zach Hamil took his spot. But B’s Coach Claude Julien said he expected Peverley to dress. Shawn Thornton played some shifts on Saturday with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the second line in place of Tyler Seguin.
That might have been the result of Julien juggling things while he rested Peverley, who had three assists in his limited duty. Seguin has only four points during December after being one of the NHL’s top scorers in the early going. Seguin was a healthy scratch earlier this month after he missed a team breakfast in Winnipeg.
And Gregory Campbell missed his third straight game on Saturday with a fracture in his left foot; Hamill had taken his spot on the fourth line, but Campbell practiced Sunday and said afterward he believes he can play against the Habs. Julien was non-committal, saying he’s wait until the morning skate to see how Campbell reacted. So if either can’t go, Hamil will be in their spot.
If both Peverley and Campbell can’t go and if Lucic is suspended, it could cause Julien some problems. But if all goes their way, here’s how the Bruins should line up.
Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg, Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference, Adam McQuaid