|Derek Morris, back after being sidelined by injury, congratulates Tim Thomas after the Bruins held on to edge the Panthers. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)|
Morris shifts into gear
Defenseman returns after missing 3 games
SUNRISE, Fla. - In recent years, durability has not been an issue for Derek Morris.
Before 2009-10, Morris had played full 82-game schedules in two of the last three seasons. So it was especially grating for the first-year Bruin to sit out against Atlanta, Ottawa, and Toronto because of an undisclosed injury.
“It’ll be nice to get back in,’’ Morris said before last night’s 2-1 win over the Panthers. “It’s not much fun watching.’’
Morris (3-13 -16 in 34 appearances) was back to having fun last night. Deemed fit following the three-game sitdown, Morris returned to the lineup, grateful not only for his good health but the steady play of the blue-line six-pack during his absence.
“As a D-man, you’re always watching what our D are doing out there,’’ said Morris. “You watch [Zdeno Chara] and see how good his stick is. I’ve seen Dennis [Wideman] make some unbelievable passes in situations that you’re normally in. Johnny [Boychuk] obviously played well. [Matt Hunwick], everybody played well. You pick up little things off them, and if you can put them into your game, great. When you come back, you’re always worried about trying to do too much. When you’re watching games when you’re out, you realize how little you need to do and how simple you’ve got to be.’’
Morris, usually Chara’s partner, skated with Hunwick. Morris manned the point alongside Patrice Bergeron on the No. 2 power-play unit. Wideman, Chara’s partner during Morris’s absence, remained with the captain.
Morris skated 26 shifts for 17:53 of ice time. With less than 10 seconds remaining, Morris gave away the puck to Stephen Weiss, who set up Jordan Leopold for the potential tying goal. But Tim Thomas (25 saves) got his glove on Leopold’s bid.
“He’s moving along,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “He did well again today, skating this morning with Doug. [Today], he’ll skate with us in the morning. We’ll go along as long as he keeps improving every day, which he is. People are curious about whether he’ll be ready for Jan. 1. I don’t know. I think he doesn’t know. It will depend on how he progresses throughout the week here.’’
In the four games before the ankle sprain, Lucic had served as Bergeron’s left wing. It was the first time in Lucic’s three-year NHL career that he had skated with Bergeron. It’s unknown where Lucic would slot in upon his return. Bergeron has developed chemistry with the speedy Daniel Paille riding shotgun on the left side. Lucic might go back to his old spot on the No. 1 line alongside Marc Savard. In the last three games, former fourth-liner Steve Begin has filled Lucic’s former position on the No. 1 line, where his energy and grinding game have complemented the skill of Savard and Marco Sturm.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.