BOSTON — It took until 5:44 of the second period today Bruins defenseman Shane Hnidy to put his surgically repaired shoulder to its first real test.
Atlanta’s Evander Kane was lined up, so Hnidy hit him into the end wall and then took a spill. Nothing out of the ordinary resulted from the play, so “The Sheriff” just kept on playing.
Hnidy made a successful return to NHL action today at TD Garden by logging 13:53 of ice time in the Bruins’ 3-2 win. It was his first game of the season after he was injured in the fall while on a tryout with Phoenix and then signed with Boston as a free agent in February.
“You know what, I didn’t even have time to think about it, and nobody even asked me how I felt that way,” said Hnidy about the crash with Kane and the boards. “And you know, I didn’t even notice. So there’s a few bumps and other than that it felt great and everything responded well.”
A 35-year-old veteran that made his NHL debut back in the 2000-01, Hnidy had been practicing for this day for weeks. Although he’s been through the wars plenty, he was still having some doubts on the eve of his debut.
“I was nervous. I can admit it. Last night there was a few butterflies just wondering about how it would go,” said Hnidy. “But I think once I got out there actually the first shift went really well. I kind of got to feel the puck right away. And as soon as I made a couple plays it’s like it all comes back. … But I’m happy, happy it’s kind of over and done with. It was fun and I enjoyed it.”
Hnidy will probably get a couple more games over the last four contests of the regular season to make sure he’s ready to help in a pinch in the playoffs. Head coach Claude Julien sounded like a guy who’s not afraid to rely on his “Sheriff.”
“I was kind of keeping an eye on him and he was determined to keep it simple, but efficient,” said Julien. “And that’s where, we talked about it before the game, the one thing he does have is experience in this league so he’s smart enough to handle the situation the right way. So I thought for a guy coming into his first game and at the end of the season like that, it’s you know, it’s never easy. Everybody’s been playing 70, close to 80, games and he’s got a lot of catching up to do. But I think he was good tonight for us. I like the way he handled himself.”