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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Bruins took a day off Sunday in the aftermath of their 7-2 rout of Toronto the night before, so Monday morning's practice at Ristuccia Arena was defenseman Matt Hunwick's first chance to get onto the ice after his first healthy scratch of the season.
Although Hunwick's intensity level was just as high as it usually is -- his 1-on-1 battle behind the net with David Krejci during one drill proved that fact -- it was a reassuring sign that his work ethic had not headed in the other direction in light of his removal from the lineup. There's no head-hanging for Hunwick, just battling.
"I certainly want [the coaches] to know that I'm ready to compete and that I'm not going to just take this and sit quietly," Hunwick said after practice. "I mean, I'm working my ass off to get back in the lineup and do everything that they ask for me to do. I just look at it as a little bit of a challenge."
Hunwick's quality of play had been sinking a bit before the Bruins landed in Montreal on Friday. In that 5-1 loss, things hit rock bottom. One turnover led to a Canadiens 2-on-1 that Tim Thomas stopped. Another actually deflected off Thomas and out to Michael Cammalleri for one of the forward's three goals on the night. And those were just the two most egregious gaffes off Hunwick's stick.
"Some nights you don't have it. Some nights you don't feel comfortable and that happened to me that night," said Hunwick.
When asked whether his confidence had been waning as head coach Claude Julien mentioned when talking about the benching Saturday, Hunwick responded: "To be honest with you, I didn't at the time. Obviously, that was a tough game in Montreal. We'd like to play better in those situations. But overall, I hadn't questioned my confidence."
Julien on Monday was quick to spin his lineup move as one that gave Johnny Boychuk (who responded with his first NHL goal) a chance to play rather than a removal of Hunwick. Left unsaid was that after that Montreal game, any of the Bruins' six blueliners could've been a candidate for a seat in the press box and the decision was made to give Hunwick the boot.
"Our team played great on Saturday night, so you can't argue with the decision," said Hunwick. "But I'm going to go out and I think all those times I was scratched last year, I always bounced back well and that's what I'm looking to do this year."
In fact, Hunwick was a healthy scratch 23 times for the Bruins last season. This time around, however, things are a little different. Instead of a rookie waiting his turn, Hunwick is a second-year player who started the season with a spot in the top six. Missing the Leafs matchup also kept Hunwick from getting a shot to play on Hockey Night in Canada -- appointment viewing for him as a kid growing up in Michigan -- and to face former Montreal nemesis Mike Komisarek. You'll remember that in the same game that Hunwick suffered his ruptured spleen in last year's playoff series with the Habs, Hunwick was also eye gouged by the then-Habs defenseman during a postgame scuffle.
Saturday would've been the first chance for the two players to match up since that incident.
"It's a new year and obviously there's not really much to do," said Hunwick, who played down that aspect of not dressing for the game. "He's a huge guy. It's not like I'm going to go out and fight him the first shift or something. It's always fun to have a little bit of a rivalry and compete against great players and it would've been fun to do."
At least with Julien, players young and old always know where they stand. Players with more established pedigrees, be it Shane Hnidy or even Shawn Thornton in last spring's Carolina series, have had to accept the coach's decision to sit them in the past. They were able to take solace that Julien's dog house doesn't usually stay filled very long -- a fact that can keep Hunwick focused on the right goal.
"He lets me know exactly where I stand and within the team right now and what I need to do to get back in the lineup," said Hunwick, who said he had a long talk with Julien before Saturday night's game. "So the lines there are drawn pretty clearly and it's a matter of me going out and doing it."