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Closing the book on the Milan Lucic/Ryan Miller hit… for now

11.15.11 at 1:50 am ET
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When word came down Sunday night that Milan Lucic had been called to the proverbial principal’s office for his hit on Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller, there were different reactions from different places. It kept what’s been an interesting conversation going just a little bit longer, and while the conversation can stop for now, you have to imagine both teams have Nov. 23 circled.

A small scrum was the only on-ice reaction to Milan Lucic's hit on Ryan Miller Saturday night. (AP)

While Bruins fans were surprised that Brendan Shanahan would consider suspending Lucic for the play, it seems non-Bruins fans were rooting for the B’s to get their comeuppance.

In the end, Shanahan opted against suspending Lucic, saying he found out all he needed to regarding intent on a play in which the two players were racing for a puck in the Sabres’ zone. The lack of suspension means the red-hot Bruins can breathe a sigh of relief, and it likely gives the Sabres all the more motivation to respond when the teams meet a week from Wednesday in Buffalo. Things figure to get more interesting than they already are.

The play itself remains a popular topic of debate. Lucic was chasing the puck after blocking a shot, but Miller came way out of his net to clear it before getting hit. One popular line of thinking among fans around the net was that Miller shouldn’t have come so far out of the net, as skating that far out makes him fair game.

The response to that, of course, is a simple, “um… no.” As Rule 42.1 (charging) states, “a goalkeeper is not ‘fair game’ just because he is outside the goal crease area.” As such, Lucic was assessed the correct penalty when the refs sent him to the box for two minutes on a charging call.

Then there’s the picture that a disciplinary hearing paints for Lucic. The left wing prides himself on being a power forward who has no shortage of grit or offensive skill, but such hearings are never a good thing. While he is not a dirty player, this wasn’t the first time he found himself being criticized for an ill-advised play. The one suspension of Lucic’s career came in Game 2 of the first round against the Habs in 2009, when Lucic cross-checked Maxim Lapierre in the head. More recently, his punch to the head of then-Thrashers defenseman Freddy Meyer last season (which did follow a high hit from Meyer and got him a match penalty and an automatic hearing) last December and a sucker-punch to Lightning blueliner Victor Hedman in Game 1 of the conference finals a season ago provide Lucic-bashers with plenty of ammunition.

Claude Julien defended Lucic Monday, saying the 23-year-old goes hard at all times, so much so that he accidentally did the same thing to coach Geoff Ward in a practice last season, knocking Ward down much like he did to Miller.

As for the Sabres, it seems they can’t catch a break. With Miller out with a concussion, Jhonas Enroth started in his place Monday night and was knocked down when Habs defenseman Erik Cole hit him in the crease. Cole was assessed an interference minor, while the entire Sabres’ bench was likely scratching their heads over the luck of their netminders.

Regardless of who’s in net on the 23rd, things figure to be interesting. Tim Thomas admitted Saturday that he was on his toes following the Lucic hit, as he thought a Sabres player might take a run at him. After the Sabres failed to respond at all Saturday, one would think they’ll try to correct that in the next meeting.

For now, the book can be closed on the matter, but next Wednesday figures to be a different story.

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