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Marchand asked to explain hit on Umberger

BRAD MARCHAND Reputation as an agitator BRAD MARCHAND
Reputation as an agitator
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 17, 2011

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NASHVILLE — On Tuesday night, Brad Marchand had little on his mind other than his club’s 3-2 shootout win over Columbus, the Bruins’ first 2-pointer in five games. The NHL, however, was busy studying a play that Marchand considered benign.

Today at noon, Marchand will participate in a conference call with NHL vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy, asked to explain his side of a second-period incident that had Columbus forward R.J. Umberger complaining of a blind-side hit.

It is exactly the type of play that has been picked apart during the general managers’ meetings this week in Boca Raton, Fla.

Because of the current climate, Marchand could be suspended. If so, the maximum would be five games because his hearing is taking place via conference call.

“They’re going to be very sensitive to [head shots],’’ said coach Claude Julien. “They’re going to look at those kinds of situations. I know they want to rectify it. Am I surprised? No. Not after hearing about that for the last three days.’’

The play in question didn’t draw a penalty. Replay showed that Marchand appeared to flash out his right elbow and catch an unsuspecting Umberger in the back of the head. Under Rule 48, a blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted or is the principal point of contact is not permitted.

“You’ve got to think that’s one of the hits we are trying to eliminate, whether it’s inadvertent or not,’’ Umberger told the Columbus Dispatch.

Umberger fell to the ice but was not injured. Marchand said he didn’t hit Umberger very hard.

“From what I remember, the puck was kind of bouncing around the neutral zone,’’ Marchand said after practice yesterday. “He kind of stopped and started to go for it.

“I tried to make contact with him and I tried to hit him in the back with a shoulder. I saw the replay. It looks like I kind of got him up high. My initial intent was that I was trying to make contact with him.’’

Marchand thought nothing of the play. “After the game, there was no talk about it or anything,’’ he said.

This will be Marchand’s first disciplinary hearing as an NHLer. Also in his favor is Umberger’s good health and the fact that no penalty was called.

However, Marchand entered the league with a reputation as an agitator in the AHL and junior.

“Just because they’re trying to tighten up right now on head hits and stuff, there might be a reaction to it,’’ he said.

Marchand practiced on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. If he is suspended, Rich Peverley would most likely be promoted to the second line. The Bruins currently have 13 forwards.

Scratch ticket On Tuesday, Michael Ryder was a healthy scratch for the first time as a Bruin.

“I never really had any idea,’’ Ryder said. “You want to play. It’s upsetting when you’re not in the lineup.’’

Ryder (17-20—37 in 68 games) had been skating on the third line. He has one goal in his last 14 games.

Yesterday, Ryder was one of four forwards getting time on the No. 3 line. Peverley, Chris Kelly, and Tyler Seguin were the others. If Marchand is suspended for tonight’s game, Ryder would be back in. But if Marchand is not suspended, Ryder could be out for a second straight game.

“I didn’t think I was playing bad bad,’’ Ryder said. “I thought I was skating pretty well. It’s just that people thought this was the best way to go about it, I guess.’’

Ryder is fighting Seguin for a lineup spot. Seguin scored the only shootout goal against the Blue Jackets, but he didn’t have any shots and didn’t stand out otherwise.

“Besides the shootout goal, he really didn’t have any scoring chances,’’ said Julien. “He’s really got to work hard at having confidence in his game, being able to create those chances he’s capable of doing, and fighting through that. That’s what you hope for with a player like him.’’

Never mind Adam McQuaid took the ice for yesterday’s practice but Julien told him to get off after he saw the defenseman laboring through the session. McQuaid has been slowed by a sore left foot . . . Andrew Ference continues to progress from his leg injury and could be available tonight . . . Tough call tonight: Give Tuukka Rask, who helped the Bruins steal 2 points Tuesday, another start? Or tap Tim Thomas, out of action since Friday? Many factors in play, ranging from giving Thomas more rest, giving the ace enough work to stay sharp, and allowing Rask to get hot. “It’s tricky,’’ said Julien. It might have to come down to a flip of the bottle cap at one of Nashville’s fine establishments.

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

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