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NHL Playoffs

Hunwick is facing up to increased pressure

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 18, 2009
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WILMINGTON - In his first big league postseason appearance, Matt Hunwick couldn't keep the puck in the offensive zone, leading to Montreal's first goal. He was taken off the No. 1 power-play unit. He felt third-line grinder Tom Kostopoulos's elbow whiz past his ear in the final seconds. Then after the game, Hunwick emerged from a scrum with the hated Mike Komisarek with bruises encircling his right eye.

Welcome to the NHL playoffs.

"Definitely some ups and downs," Hunwick said after yesterday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "After reviewing the tape [Thursday night after the Bruins' 4-2 victory in Game 1 of their first-round series], maybe I was a little harder on myself than I should have been. At the same time, pucks are bouncing and maybe nerves are playing a little bit of a factor. Once those things get smoothed out, hopefully the rest of the games are a little more consistent."

Yesterday the clearest signs of playoff intensity were all over Hunwick's face. During his postgame tangle with Komisarek, the rookie defenseman suffered cuts over the right eye. There was also a bruise on the side of the bridge of his nose. General manager Peter Chiarelli suspected Komisarek had gouged Hunwick in the eye. Hunwick required several sutures to fix the cuts. He said his vision is fine.

According to a replay Chiarelli saw, Komisarek tagged Hunwick with a gloved right hand. But while linesman Tony Sericolo was trying to separate the two, Komisarek delivered the eye gouge with an ungloved left hand. Komisarek was not given a penalty, but Chiarelli said he notified the NHL.

"It looked like he eye-gouged him," Chiarelli said. "That's all I'll say about that. I'll let the league decide if there should be punishment."

During an appearance on "NHL Live" yesterday, league disciplinarian Colin Campbell, who issued a one-game suspension to Philadelphia forward Daniel Carcillo for delivering a butt-end to Pittsburgh forward Maxime Talbot, made it sound like no discipline would be issued against the Canadiens.

"People take things out of different incidents [Thursday] night," Campbell said. " 'Oh boy. Same thing [as Philadelphia-Pittsburgh]. How many games are you going to suspend him?' You've got to let the games unfold. You've got to let hockey be hockey, playoffs be playoffs. You've got to let the energy flow. Then, when they cross that line, you do what you have to do."

Hunwick downplayed the incident. He explained it was a heat-of-the-moment situation and said he wasn't sure if a gouge took place.

"I couldn't tell," said Hunwick. "It's one of those where you're battling and you don't know exactly what's going on. He was face-washing me. I was face-washing him. It's one of those things where it's in the heat of the moment and you can't really tell. I'm not here to make any accusations, that's for sure."

The Bruins have a history with the 6-foot-5-inch, 243-pound Komisarek. Earlier this season, Komisarek injured his shoulder while fighting Milan Lucic. In the final regular-season meeting, Komisarek tangled with David Krejci at the end of the first period, prompting Zdeno Chara to jump him and deliver several glove-on rights. In the second period of that game, Komisarek belted Lucic from behind. In response, Lucic wrapped his hands around Komisarek's head - Shawn Thornton was already in his face - and yanked him to the ice.

Hunwick, however, didn't think Thursday's incident was dirty.

"I was face-washing him, he's face-washing me, but he's obviously a bigger guy," said the 5-11, 190-pound Hunwick. "He's got a bigger reach and he accomplished more than me. I don't think it was dirty."

While Hunwick brushed off his scrap with Komisarek, he wasn't pleased that seconds before they came together, Kostopoulos threw an elbow that just missed. As the game ended, Kostopoulos and teammate Guillaume Latendresse mixed it up with Steve Montador. A few steps away from the pileup, Hunwick and Komisarek got together.

"That was something on replay that I did see, the elbow go flying by my chin," Hunwick said. "That's something that you don't want to see happen to any player. Thankfully enough for us, he didn't catch me with it."

Before the series, coach Claude Julien underscored the importance of sticking to the Bruins' hard-nosed identity. But Julien also stressed how the Bruins must steer clear of the chippy post-whistle stuff that can lead to power plays. In Game 1, Montreal tough guy Georges Laraque got in Chara's face several times and chirped at the captain. Chara returned a few shots but never lost his cool.

In the third period, after agitator Maxim Lapierre popped Phil Kessel, Lucic defended his teammate. But Lapierre and Lucic were given 12-minute penalties (two for roughing, 10-minute misconduct).

"I don't want us to lose our edge as far as being a physical team," Julien said. "I think we need to finish our checks and be the physical team that we are. The one thing we've got to stay away from is these after-whistle scrums that prove absolutely nothing and get you in more trouble than anything. Our guys did a great job."

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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