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Shakeup was a business call

Kobasew casualty of team’s slow start

By Brendan Hall
Globe Correspondent / October 20, 2009

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WILMINGTON - It was only two weeks ago that the term “unsung hero’’ was being tossed around the Bruins’ organization in reference to Chuck Kobasew. So after Sunday’s turn of events, when the well-liked forward was sent on his way, the element of surprise has been considerable.

Looking to shake some rust off the team after its slow start, general manager Peter Chiarelli pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Kobasew to Minnesota for a 2011 second-round pick, veteran forward Craig Weller, and the rights to fourth-round pick Alexander Fallstrom.

The move sparked plenty of reaction in the Bruins’ locker room following yesterday morning’s practice at Ristuccia Arena.

True, Kobasew’s slow start mirrored that of the Bruins (3-4-0), as he had just one assist through the first seven games after a strong showing in the exhibition season. But the veteran was popular in the organization for his work ethic, businesslike approach, and willingness to do some of the grittier tasks on the ice. He was also a favorite of coach Claude Julien, who admired his humility and willingness to learn.

“He’s always been a great player to coach, very professional,’’ Julien said. “He cares about everything that comes with the game - condition, training, commitment. But as Peter mentioned, there’s reasons for the organization to make the trade, and you have to respect that and work with the players you have at your disposal.’’

A wake-up call for the players? Perhaps. But the reaction of center Patrice Bergeron, Kobasew’s roommate on the road, was one shared across the room - surprised, but understanding of the nature of the business.

“I’m sad to see him go,’’ Bergeron said. “And I know he liked it here, so it’s unfortunate for him as well. But it’s Peter’s job to worry about all that, we can’t. We have to go out and play hockey.’’

“I’m surprised,’’ goalie Tim Thomas said. “It’s a funny business, where a guy can be your teammate going on three years, and then all of a sudden he’s gone.’’

Chiarelli explained that he had been in talks with several teams for two weeks. So how much did the Bruins’ sloppy start influence the decision?

“That helped,’’ he said.

Boston’s other major move, with Milan Lucic having broken a finger in Friday night’s 3-0 win over Dallas, included recalling forwards Vladimir Sobotka and Brad Marchand from Providence.

“Me and Marshy, we should bring some energy, play hard,’’ said Sobotka, who had 5 points in 25 games with Boston last season and two goals in the Bruins’ opening-round series with Montreal in 2008.

Marchand recounted being pulled into coach Rob Murray’s office following the P-Bruins’ 7-2 win over Portland, and being told to stick around. A half-hour later, Marchand got the call-up, his first since being drafted by Boston in 2006.

“I was both excited and nervous, it was crazy,’’ Marchand said. “It’s a special feeling.’’

Guillaume Lefebvre, who was recalled on an emergency basis for Saturday night’s 4-1 loss at Phoenix, has been sent back down.

Lucic has surgery
Chiarelli announced after practice that Lucic underwent surgery Sunday on his right index finger, and will miss 4-6 weeks. The surgery came on the same day he was placed on long-term injured reserve, which means he must miss at least 10 games and 24 calendar days.

“Any time you lose a guy like Looch, one of those players who usually has a pretty good impact on the game when he’s on top of it, it’s certainly going to hurt,’’ Julien said.

“I think we saw him more like the player we wanted him to be in Dallas. It’s going to hurt, but it’s going to give somebody else the opportunity to step up.’’

Old brawl game
Marchand, Sobotka, and Lefebvre all were involved in a raucous third-period melee Sunday against Portland at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. After some jawing, the Pirates’ Chris McCormick jumped over the boards to cross-check Marchand, only to be greeted with a sucker punch from Sobotka.

And then, as Marchand tells it, “all hell broke loose.’’

McCormick was assessed five penalties - two two-minute minors (cross-checking, instigating), a five-minute fighting major, and two 10-minute misconducts (instigating, leaving the bench). Ten-minute misconducts also were given to Lefebvre (instigating), Providence’s Mikko Lehtonen (secondary altercation), and Portland’s Travis Turnbull (secondary altercation).

Any newspaper-acceptable words exchanged?

“No, definitely not,’’ laughed Marchand, who was sporting a gash on the bridge of his nose and had a fat lower lip.

Kobasew, it should be noted, could win a fight when needed. Marchand thinks he “definitely’’ can fill that void.

His fighting style?

“I don’t know, just grab and throw,’’ he said with a smile.

Rest for weary
Marc Savard and Shawn Thornton missed practice on “maintenance days,’’ according to Julien . . . Defenseman Dennis Wideman (left shoulder) said he felt ready to return after sitting out the last two weeks. “Wednesday [when the Bruins host the Predators] we’ll see how everything goes, but everything right now feels good,’’ he said.

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