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Bruins Notebook

Spleen surgery knocks out Hunwick

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 19, 2009
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Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick underwent a procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital yesterday to remove a ruptured spleen. Team physician Peter Asnis said recovery usually takes several months, which would rule out Hunwick for the rest of the playoffs.

Dr. David Berger performed the procedure.

Hunwick, 23, suffered the injury during a collision in the second period of the Bruins' 4-2 win over Montreal Thursday at TD Banknorth Garden. Hunwick didn't think anything of the hit and completed the game.

According to Asnis, Hunwick was more concerned about the area around his right eye, which had been scratched during a tangle at the end of the game with Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek.

Hunwick mentioned Friday that he had discomfort in his ribs, but he related it to a feeling after a hard hit. Hunwick went through practice that day without discomfort.

After practice, however, Hunwick complained of pain in his abdomen and shoulder to the training staff. The team's medical staff was informed and Hunwick was admitted to Mass. General for examination. A CAT scan revealed that Hunwick's spleen had sustained damage, at which time he was declared unfit to play in Game 2.

"He was seen by the internal medicine team and general surgeons were contacted," Asnis said. "Bloodwork was done. Matt felt well. He had no pain at that time. He was stable based on his exam and on his bloodwork. A 24-hour period had elapsed, and he was sent home with close observation."

Asnis said Hunwick felt well yesterday morning and had no complaints. Hunwick went to Ristuccia Arena for a team meeting, but he felt an increase in pain and the training staff called an ambulance. Another CAT scan was taken at MGH, and the medical team decided to remove his spleen.

"His playing career should not be affected," said Asnis. "He should have a 100 percent recovery."

Hunwick will remain at MGH for several days, said Asnis. NHL Players Association executive director Paul Kelly called Hunwick after the procedure.

"He's obviously very, very disappointed that he's out of the playoffs," Kelly said. "Tough luck for the Bruins. But obviously his health has to come first. It sounds like the Bruins handled it in the proper manner, so I'm encouraged to hear that."

"The response was very rapid," Asnis said. "I think that was important. But he was never in any imminent danger."

Hunwick saw 15:59 of ice time Thursday in his first career playoff game.

In the regular season, Hunwick appeared in 53 games, collecting six goals and 21 assists. Most recently, he skated on the second defensive pairing with Dennis Wideman. Hunwick was also alongside Wideman on the No. 1 power-play unit.

Hunwick was replaced by Shane Hnidy for Game 2 last night. Hnidy, who was a healthy scratch for Game 1, scored the Bruins' third goal in a 5-1 win.

"My message to them was, 'Matty's had a rough day,' " said coach Claude Julien, who addressed the team before the game. " 'We could certainly make it a better ending for him today if we play well and win the game.' No doubt that guys really wanted to win this one for him."

Ice issues
There was some concern before the game regarding ice conditions at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Celtics tipped off against the Bulls at 12:30 p.m. in the opening game of their playoff series and went into overtime, forcing the Bull Gang to make a quick change from hardwood to ice prior to the 8 p.m. puck drop.

"I think the crew at the Garden have done a good job of making sure the ice is as good as it can be," Julien said before the game. "I'm confident that will happen again.

"Having said that, you play in places like New York, where the ice is often a challenge. But I've always said that it's the same for both teams. We're used to playing on good ice. So is Montreal. If it is a little bit of an issue, both teams have to deal with it."

On Friday, Montreal forward Christopher Higgins noted that the Canadiens are faster than the Bruins.

"Our speed will wear them down," Higgins said. "We're a better skating team than they are."

Yesterday morning, Julien fired back.

"Montreal's bragging that they're faster than we are," Julien said. "That's their choice. I guess speed kills."

Markov, Ference sit
Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov missed his second straight game, while Bruins blue liner Andrew Ference also remained sidelined. Neither player has dressed since April 4, when they suffered their undisclosed injuries (Markov against Toronto, Ference against the Rangers) . . . Aaron Ward, Byron Bitz, and Manny Fernandez were the only Bruins to skate yesterday morning. "Hate not skating on game days," Ward said. "What do I need rest for?" Meanwhile, the Canadiens scrubbed their morning skate at Boston University's Walter Brown Arena.

Punching in
The Bruins expected to see more of heavyweight Georges Laraque in a featured role. In Game 1, Laraque, usually a fourth-line fixture, switched spots with Alex Tanguay and took several shifts with top-liners Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu. Laraque was physical and took up space against Zdeno Chara, while Tanguay combined with Higgins and Glen Metropolit to score Montreal's first goal. "Higgins and Metropolit can skate," said Bruin Steve Montador. "Maybe it was a good move. But our game plan doesn't change. Certainly you have to recognize personnel out there and be aware of who's on the ice. We do as much as we can to concentrate on our game." . . . Forwards Tomas Plekanec and Matt D'Agostini and defenseman Patrice Brisebois, who played in Game 1, were healthy scratches.

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

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