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With Ward's status uncertain, Bruins react to Walker incident

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / May 12, 2009
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WILMINGTON - On his first shift of Game 5, Milan Lucic approached Tim Gleason, got in the face of the 6-foot-1-inch, 214-pound Carolina defenseman, and checked to see if he wanted to fight. Gleason declined, not wanting to give the Bruins any momentum in their own building.

So Lucic skated away, disappointed that Gleason didn't want to dance but respectful of his point of view.

"If you look at the way he plays, he plays such a physical game," said Lucic. "He's such a great player for them. He's real effective. The best thing about him that I like is that he's real honest and he plays really hard. He's definitely a guy you'd want on your team. We know he's going to bring it."

While Lucic gave a stick salute to the hard-as-nails defenseman (Gleason got the better of Lucic during a fight last season), the Bruins were quick to call Scott Walker's Game 5 pop to Aaron Ward's face a cheap shot - one that made the Carolina forward's wallet slightly thinner yesterday.

"Any time someone takes a punch when the other guy's down and not ready for it, it's dangerous," Dennis Wideman said. "He's a guy that plays hard and plays on the edge. Sometimes things like that happen."

At 17:13 of Sunday night's third period, Walker was tagged with instigating, fighting, and a 10-minute misconduct after he belted Ward, who still had his gloves on, with a barehanded right fist. Yesterday, Walker was fined $2,500, although he was not suspended. He will be eligible to play in Game 6 tonight at the RBC Center.

"We are satisfied with the league's ruling," said Carolina president and general manager Jim Rutherford in a statement. "After our team received several punches throughout the series leading up to Game 5, it was a matter of time before one was going to be thrown back."

Waker, an alternate captain and second-line right wing, has no goals and three assists during the postseason.

"I accept the league's decision," Walker said in a statement. "Based on what was said on the ice as I was dropping my gloves, it was my understanding that I was engaged in an altercation."

Before the ruling was announced, Bruins coach Claude Julien was asked how he'd feel if Walker were not suspended for tonight's match.

"I'd be disappointed," Julien said. "In reviewing what I saw, I just didn't like what happened. I just don't think there was any need for that.

"He sucker-punched him once coming into the scrum when [Ward] was involved with another player. He dropped his gloves and sucker-punched him.

"I don't care what people say about Ward should have protected himself. He had no intentions of getting involved. We asked our guys to stay composed and not fall into that trap. He did just that. A guy with Walker's experience should know better than to sucker-punch a guy."

According to Julien, Ward underwent additional tests yesterday morning to determine whether he had suffered a broken orbital bone. Julien said the team expected to learn the results yesterday afternoon. Ward traveled with the Bruins to Raleigh and is considered questionable for tonight. He could be fitted with a cage or a shield if team doctors clear him for action.

Ward has been skating with Zdeno Chara on the No. 1 defensive pairing. They have been matched against Carolina's No. 1 line of Ray Whitney, Eric Staal, and Erik Cole throughout the series.

"I can't answer whether he'll be in or what's going to come out of it," said Julien. "I guess it depends. We've had some guys this year with eye injuries. [Michael] Ryder had bones in his forehead crushed when he got high-sticked. With that kind of stuff, they weren't able to play.

"We don't know enough about it now. That's why there was more testing done. We're just crossing our fingers that somehow, whether it's with a shield or whatever the situation is, he'll be able to play."

If Ward is unable to go, the Bruins would have to call up reinforcements from Providence. Andrew Ference, who suffered a lower-body injury in Game 3, will not be available tonight. The Bruins have not been carrying any spare defensemen.

Ward wasn't the only blue liner shaken up in Game 5. Toward the end of the second period, Chara went down when he was slashed on the left ankle by Carolina center Jussi Jokinen. Chara limped off the ice and didn't return until the third period had started. But he finished the game and said afterward he was fine. Yesterday, Julien said Chara was OK. Neither Ward nor Chara was available for comment.

"I just think those kinds of cheap shots are not warranted in this game," Julien said. "If you want to hit somebody, hit him. But to use a stick and go after somebody's ankle or leg is as cheap as it comes."

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