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Quite a character, Hnidy brought in for tryout

SHANE HNIDY Expressed interest SHANE HNIDY
Expressed interest
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / February 24, 2011

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — An old Sheriff is in town.

“Sheriff’’ Shane Hnidy, one of the most well-liked Bruins from the 2008-09 club that ran away with the regular-season Eastern Conference crown, could be back in the fold. Hnidy, after hooking on with the Bruins on a tryout basis, participated in his first practice yesterday at Pacific Coliseum alongside old buddies he hopes to call his teammates once more.

“It was definitely an easy transition to come into this room,’’ said the stay-at-home defenseman. “It’s an incredible group of guys — the guys that have been at it and the guys that are still here. It’s part of the reason why this was a team atop the list for me. Just fortunate to be here.’’

Hnidy started 2010-11 with Phoenix on a tryout basis. But toward the end of training camp, he suffered a rotator cuff injury. Hnidy spent some time rehabilitating in Phoenix, then returned to his offseason home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for further treatment. He has not played this season. According to general manager Peter Chiarelli, it could be a month or more before Hnidy is ready for game action.

“He’s a veteran who, if we do decide to sign him, will accept his role,’’ said Chiarelli. “He works hard. He’s familiar with the system. He’s familiar with most of the guys. That’s very important.’’

Throughout his rehab, the 35-year-old Hnidy expressed interest in rejoining the Bruins. In turn, the Bruins, who are carrying seven defensemen, need experienced blue-line reinforcements for the stretch run. Last year, they were without Dennis Seidenberg for the playoffs, and Mark Stuart missed the first round. Two years ago, injuries to Matt Hunwick and Andrew Ference left them shorthanded in the postseason.

Chiarelli said he’s still hunting for blue-line help on the trade market prior to Monday’s deadline. But if Chiarelli stands pat and opts to sign Hnidy for what should be the league minimum, the defenseman would fit under the cap.

On Jan. 2, 2008, the Bruins acquired Hnidy and a 2008 sixth-round pick from Anaheim for Brandon Bochenski. For the rest of the regular season, Hnidy had one goal and four assists in 43 games.

The following season, Hnidy continued to play his defense-first game on the third pairing. In 65 games, Hnidy had three goals and nine assists. Perhaps just as important, Hnidy made many friends with his snarly, team-first approach. Hnidy has, however, filled in several of his missing upper teeth — the gap added to his personality — with fake chompers.

At TD Garden on Nov. 1, 2008, Hnidy made his most memorable impression by leaving an impression on the face of Dallas’s Matt Niskanen. After Sean Avery ignited a brawl by cross-checking Marc Savard from behind, Niskanen flew into the pile, only to be grabbed by Hnidy. With a flurry of thundering rights, Hnidy pummeled Niskanen in a scrap that helped to bring the Bruins together.

“We’ve never really lost touch,’’ said fellow blue-collar man Shawn Thornton. “We’re close friends away from the rink. There’s maybe 10 guys in my 14 years that I’ve kept in touch with. He’s one of them. He’s a great character guy in the locker room. For depth, he’s a good player.’’

Hnidy left Boston after 2008-09 and signed a one-year deal with Minnesota, scoring two goals with 12 assists last season. There is no timetable as to when Hnidy might sign.

“I need to work on my legs,’’ Hnidy said. “I need to get up to the speed of the game. Everything’s progressed real well so far.’’

Grand welcome Yesterday, Milan Lucic spent the first of three offdays in his hometown by getting the business from his coach.

Upon the conclusion of practice, Claude Julien urged Lucic to take a victory lap around Pacific Coliseum. Four seasons ago, Lucic, at the same rink, was one of the biggest reasons his former junior team won the Memorial Cup. He was named tournament MVP.

So as his teammates laughed, slapped their sticks on the ice, and chanted, “MVP, MVP,’’ Lucic completed a slow lap around the rink, finishing with a wave.

“It was fun,’’ Lucic said. “It was a good little laugh.’’

Tomorrow, the Vancouver homeboy will be honored before the Giants take on the Chilliwack Bruins at Pacific Coliseum. Lucic will have his No. 27 inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor and will drop the first puck. The first 500 fans will also receive a Lucic bobblehead doll. Yesterday, upon examination of the doll, Lucic acknowledged that its nose was far too slender to be an accurate depiction.

“The nose could use a little work,’’ he said. “You can definitely tell by the side profile that it doesn’t have the bump that I’m famous for, the old Serbian nose I get from my family. But it’s pretty cool.’’

No changes The Bruins kept the same lines in yesterday’s practice as they did in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Calgary. Barring any changes, Daniel Paille and Steven Kampfer will be the healthy scratches against Vancouver on Saturday. “I was really happy with our game [Tuesday] night,’’ Chiarelli said. “We’ve got [22] games left, so there’s still a lot of the season left. But it was on the road against a good team. A strong team with a strong goaltender in net. That was a playoff-style game.’’ . . . While the rest of the hockey operations inner circle traveled here with the team, assistant general manager Jim Benning remained in Calgary to scout prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a forward for the Red Deer Rebels. Through 59 games, Nugent-Hopkins had 20 goals and 66 assists for 86 points, third most in the WHL. Nugent-Hopkins is a skilled if slender center that some scouts consider a top-five pick in the 2011 draft. Courtesy of the Phil Kessel trade, otherwise known as the gift that keeps giving, the Bruins own Toronto’s upcoming first-rounder.

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