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Bruins Notebook

Morris shifts into gear

Defenseman returns after missing 3 games

Derek Morris, back after being sidelined by injury, congratulates Tim Thomas after the Bruins held on to edge the Panthers. Derek Morris, back after being sidelined by injury, congratulates Tim Thomas after the Bruins held on to edge the Panthers. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 28, 2009

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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.

Solo skate for Lucic
Milan Lucic, traveling with the team for the first time since spraining his left ankle against Minnesota Nov. 25, skated by himself yesterday morning with assistant coach Doug Houda. Lucic is expected to practice with his teammates this morning at the St. Pete Times Forum. It would be the first morning skate for Lucic.

“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.

Booth remains sidelined
David Booth, KO’d by Mike Richards Oct. 24, remains on injured reserve and out of the Florida lineup because of the concussion delivered by the Philadelphia captain. Booth has been skating on his own, but he has yet to practice with the team. Booth (2-1 -3 in nine games) would have been a lock to make the US Olympic roster because of his speed and goal-scoring ability on the wing. Booth is targeting mid-January as a return. But with no guarantees regarding the level of his game come February, Booth remains a long shot to make the club. Team USA’s roster will be announced Friday during the Winter Classic . . . Hunwick played in his 100th NHL game last night . . . Bergeron had a rare rough night on the draw, losing 10 of 14 faceoffs . . . Of the qualities that Adam McQuaid has shown since his Dec. 15 recall from Providence, the best might be the rookie defenseman’s quick stick. The defense-first McQuaid has been quick to poke pucks away and bust up scoring chances. “It’s all about timing,’’ McQuaid said. “Guys at this level are so skilled. You don’t want to get fishing, so you have to pick your spot and not get too anxious. I think that’s probably the key.’’ McQuaid, a restricted free agent following this season, could be in the mix for a full-time big-league job next year as a stay-at-homer. “Everybody’s liked his game,’’ Julien said. “He’s been pretty dependable. He’s been physical when he should be. He’s never gotten himself into trouble with any glaring mistakes. I don’t think there’s anything that’s been disappointing from him being here so far.’’ That said, McQuaid was the healthy scratch last night because of Morris’s return . . . Old friend P.J. Axelsson did not make the Swedish Olympic roster, which was released yesterday. Axelsson was a member of Team Sweden’s gold medal club in 2006.

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

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