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Fighting off a suitor

Laraque's interest in Lucic goes unrequited

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / November 23, 2008
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MONTREAL - Throughout last night's first period, whenever Milan Lucic was on the Bell Centre ice, he had a 6-foot-3-inch, 243-pound slugger practically tucked inside his sweater.

During Boston's 6-1 rout of Montreal Nov. 13, Lucic had thrown down with perpetual adversary Mike Komisarek, delivering a beating but also sidelining the rugged defenseman, who hurt his shoulder during the fight. Last night, the Canadiens wanted revenge.

Georges Laraque, itching to shed his gloves and teach the 20-year-old a lesson, was tapped to trail Lucic and goad him into a fight. On their first shift together, Laraque tapped Lucic on the leg with his stick, then got in his face, asking the Bruin to drop his gloves. Lucic didn't bite. For the rest of the period, Laraque was talking to Lucic, no doubt questioning his courage in the most explicit of ways.

Lucic continued to decline, prompting the Montreal fans to boo the forward and chant his name. But Lucic had someone more important to answer to than Laraque.

Namely, his boss.

"There was no way it was going to happen," said coach Claude Julien, who had, before the game, forbidden Lucic from fighting Laraque. "[Shawn] Thornton was there, ready for Georges. Nothing happened. My tough guy was ready for their tough guy. Simple as that. I told him not to fight. It was me."

Julien's theory was that Lucic is a first-line player who has clicked with fellow gunners Marc Savard and Phil Kessel. Laraque, on the other hand, is scoreless and averaged only 7:50 of time on ice per match before last night.

First-line wing to square off against a fourth-liner who's considered one of the toughest guys in the NHL? Julien wasn't having it.

"A guy has to do a job," said Julien. "[Laraque] shadowed Lucic tonight. That was his job. Simple as that. For us, I think Lucic is a good player. And if they want Georges to shadow him, more ice time for him. Good for him."

Lucic landed a game-high nine hits last night but never dropped the gloves. Instead, Lucic scored his sixth goal of the season to tie the game at 11:11 of the second period.

After the game, Lucic didn't offer any specifics on Laraque or any of their interactions, only to say that it was the first time he had been hounded like that by a tough guy.

Hunwick stays hot
Savard saw his five-game point streak snapped last night. Matt Hunwick, on the other hand, is still rolling. The 23-year-old defenseman, just three weeks out from being a healthy scratch, now has a four-game point streak, thanks to his goal last night.

In the last five games, Hunwick has been getting ice time in all situations. In the last three games, he's skated with Dennis Wideman on the second pairing. He's also replaced P.J. Axelsson as a point man on the No. 2 power-play unit the last two matches, Julien using Axelsson at forward on the first unit. Julien explained that he wanted the lefty-shooting Axelsson down low instead of the righty-shooting Chuck Kobasew against the Florida and Montreal penalty kills.

Praise for Roy
Last night, the Canadiens retired the No. 33 of Patrick Roy, the four-time Stanley Cup champion who revolutionized goaltending with his butterfly style. "He was a great teammate, probably one of the best I've had," said Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau, who played with Roy on two Cup-winning teams. Former Bruins and Canadiens coach Pat Burns was among the speakers who paid tribute to Roy during a 45-minute pregame ceremony.

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