For the 10 games Matt Hunwick has been a healthy scratch this season, his eyes drifted toward Andrew Ference.
"He's been someone that, when I've been up in the press box, I've tended to watch," Hunwick said before the Bruins' 7-4 win over Sabres last night.
Now, with Ference out until January with a fractured right tibia, Hunwick has become one of the defensemen asked to take the veteran's spot. Last night, and Monday against Toronto, Hunwick took Ference's spot as Dennis Wideman's partner on the second pairing, relying on his skating to serve as a dependable defenseman.
"The one thing I can say about Matt Hunwick is he's a guy that has great mobility, so he has the potential to be a good puck-moving defenseman," said coach Claude Julien before last night's game. "He has the potential, eventually, to be a guy who can grab the puck and bring it up the ice, which I saw him do a lot in Providence last year. He has a lot of stuff that is good potential for him."
Last night, Hunwick proved his coach correct, looking far more comfortable against the Sabres than he had against the Maple Leafs, and playing like a top-four defenseman. In 15:32 of ice time, Hunwick skated 23 shifts and turned in a two-assist night, recording helpers on Marc Savard's goal in the first and on Chuck Kobasew's winner in the second. Hunwick was one of five players to record a plus-three effort.
On his first assist, Hunwick was deep in his zone when he spotted Phil Kessel going up the ice with speed on the opposite wing. Hunwick connected with a pass that initiated the breakout, ending with Savard beating goalie Ryan Miller at 13:08 of the first.
In the second period, David Krejci, after dangling through the Buffalo defense to buy himself time and space, saw Hunwick open at the point. Krejci dished a pass to Hunwick, who hammered a one-timer that flew wide of the net. But the puck glanced off the end boards for Kobasew, and the winger sent a shot that ended up behind Miller for the go-ahead goal at 12:31. Hunwick now has 3 points (goal, two assists) in his last two games.
Murray case in motionAccording to general manager Peter Chiarelli, arbitrator Richard Bloch will hold the hearing regarding Glen Murray's buyout grievance in mid- to late December. The date has not been set, but Chiarelli said it will take place before January. Murray contends that because of his injured right ankle, he was not eligible to be bought out, as the collective bargaining agreement stipulates.
The sides are currently in the process of gathering and exchanging information leading up to the hearing.
In dispute is whether Murray can be awarded his full $4.15 million salary instead of the $2.767 million he is due over the next two years per the guidelines of his July 26 buyout.
Still in question is what happens to Boston's salary cap situation if Bloch decides in favor of Murray.
The Bruins believe that if Murray comes out on top, they can place him on long-term injured reserve and take his $1.383 million 2009-10 cap hit off the books. But no determination has been made on this scenario.
"By the way," Chiarelli wrote in an e-mail, "I do not blame Glen one bit for bringing this hearing."