Hunwick winging it
WILMINGTON - Bruins rookie Matt Hunwick reported to work yesterday morning, made quick note of the gear hanging in his locker, and about an hour later learned that he had been traded.
The move, barely detected by Hunwick's teammates, happened so abruptly and with such little fanfare that the affable Hunwick barely had time to discuss it with anyone. The Michigan grad walked over to his locker, pulled on his sweater, and promptly joined the on-ice workout at Ristuccia Arena with Bruins teammates.
Hunwick's trade was not to another team - a hot subject with tomorrow's NHL trade deadline fast approaching - but to a new position on left wing. The 23-year-old blue liner, who had a defenseman's black practice sweater hanging in his stall when he arrived at the rink, figured he was on blue line duty as usual.
But after a brief workout and some light stretching, he returned to his locker and found a crisp white sweater - the sure sign that he would spend the morning as a left winger, skating with Marc Savard (C) and Phil Kessel (RW).
"I didn't know exactly what was happening," said Hunwick, who skated on the wing Saturday, filling in for the injured Milan Lucic, in a 4-3 loss to Washington. "I had the defenseman's jersey hanging there when I got here. The trainers probably figured that was right, because that's what I usually wear. Then I did a few things out back, and then the white jersey was hanging there."
At 3 p.m. tomorrow, the trade deadline will pass. No one will have to worry about changing sweaters.
"I guess you'd call it closure," mused Bruins coach Claude Julien, whose charges tonight will face the wide-shouldered Philadelphia Flyers on Causeway Street. "One way or another, it will be closure."
The smooth-skating Hunwick likely isn't going anywhere, except perhaps back to the Boston blue line. Lucic skated yesterday in a red "no-contact" sweater, but Julien said it's possible that the hulking winger will be able to return tonight, perhaps missing only the one game after being rocked by a Mike Brown right hand to the jaw Thursday night with the Ducks in town.
If Lucic can't suit up - the specific nature of his injury remains undisclosed - then the heady Hunwick probably will ride again with Savard and Kessel. The fleet three on Saturday produced no fewer than 7 points (2-5 -7), with Hunwick (1-1 -2) potting a doorstep forehander as the ever-clever Savard dished out from behind the goal line.
"He's obviously a smart player," Hunwick said. "On my goal, I heard him yelling from behind the net. He's great at getting pucks in guys' hands. With Phil's speed and Savvy's passes, you know at one point Phil's going to get the puck to the net. I have to make a point of being around there, getting rebounds if I can."
Hunwick's play and versatility may well factor into what general manager Peter Chiarelli does in the final hours leading up to the trade deadline.
Given how Hunwick has shined at times this season, Chiarelli, if presented the right offer, could part with either Mark Stuart or Shane Hnidy, confident that Hunwick could carry his share of minutes on a No. 3 defensive pairing. Or, if Chiarelli upgraded on defense in a swap that included, say, Stuart or Hnidy or even veteran Aaron Ward, then Hunwick would still provide valuable depth at defense and the versatility to play the wing.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.