WILMINGTON, Mass. — Bruins head coach Claude Julien knows Brad Marchand has a rambunctious reputation, but the bench boss isn’t sweating the chance that he might have another Matt Cooke on his hands.
Marchand is now eligible to return to game action from his two-game suspension for last week’s elbow to the head of Columbus’s R.J. Umberger. The last two days, including today at Ristuccia Arena, Marchand has practiced on a four-man line alongside Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder. That kind of made it look like Marchand might be in the mix as far as a healthy scratch, which would lead one to believe the coach lost confidence in Marchand’s ability to keep his agitating style within the rules of the game.
However, the coach quickly dispelled that notion.
“You have to trust your players that they’ve learned from those things and that they don’t let it happen,” said Julien, whose team cannot afford to have a rogue player costing it games with unnecessary penalties and suspensions. “Although there are certain guys that don’t seem to be learning.”
Julien was obviously making a veiled reference to Cooke, who yesterday added to his resume of infamy with an elbow to the head of New York’s Ryan McDonagh. Cooke has an in-person hearing scheduled with the league later today.
While Marchand seems a bit contrite, it wouldn’t hurt if he sounded a little more apologetic when talking about the play and how he’s going approach the game going forward. Even today, he continued to re-iterate the notion that the elbow on Umberger was just a “hockey play.” But as the Zdeno Chara situation proved, you don’t get suspended for a hockey play. Maybe Marchand’s public comments are more about reassuring himself that he can continue to play on the edge without stepping over than they are about regretting the hit.
“Stuff like that happens in the game of hockey,” Marchand said today after practice. “It’s always going to be there. There’s always plays that happen so quick, sometimes stuff like that happens. I’m not going to change my game. It’s what got me here, it’s what allowed me to stay here. So I’m just going to keep playing the same way and hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”
Julien sounded like a coach that’s not just relying on his player to learn his lesson. He and his staff are also making sure that Marchand and all the players are keeping within the boundaries that the league has established in terms of body contact to protect everyone in the league.
“Hopefully he learns from it and he’s a little bit more careful in regards to those head hits,” said Julien. “We don’t think there’s any need for it in the game, so we all have to be aware of that. And if we’re going to clean it up as coaches, you’ve got to be supportive of it and you’ve got to be able to help your players work through that.”
Regardless of what Marchand says, he’s going to have to change his game at least a tiny bit so that he keeps his hits below the neck and stays in the Bruins’ lineup without league discipline. If he makes the slight adjustment, Julien and his staff are prepared to utilize him down the stretch.