Brad Marchand Happy to Be Back, But Playing His Game Under Increased Scrutiny Will Be a Challenge

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Brad Marchand Happy to Be Back, But Playing His Game Under Increased Scrutiny Will Be a ChallengeWILMINGTON, Mass. — Brad Marchand had a relatively uneventful return to the lineup Thursday night in New Jersey, but was just glad to be back on the ice after serving a five-game suspension.

“It was nice,” Marchand said Friday after practice. “It was a long week sitting out and watching the guys play, so it was definitely nice to get back in the lineup.”

The Bruins were glad to have Marchand back, but are they getting the same energetic sparkplug who thrives playing on the edge, or will the league’s draconian discipline neuter that aspect of his game?

Playing his first game since his low hit on Vancouver’s Sami Salo on Jan. 7 earned him a five-game ban, Marchand didn’t factor into any of the goals in Boston’s 4-1 victory over the Devils. He didn’t record a shot, or even a shot attempt in 19 shifts totaling 16:40. He also had just one hit, and perhaps most tellingly, he managed to stay out of the penalty box.

“I felt OK for the most part,” Marchand said. “My hands felt a little off. My timing was a little off. There were a couple plays that I wish I could have back, but that’s expected the first game back.”

The Bruins need Marchand’s offense to come around, as he was arguably the team’s hottest player with 7-6-13 totals in the last 10 games before his unpaid vacation. But they also need his physical play and ability to get under the opposition’s skill.

There wasn’t a lot of that on display on Thursday. That might have had something to do with a little rust setting in during his layoff.

“For a guy who hadn’t played in over a week, week and a half, I thought he played well,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He played with some energy. He said after the game it’s pretty amazing when you haven’t played for a while, you think you’re skating a lot. You think you’re keeping yourself in shape, but there’s nothing like playing a game.”

There’s also nothing quite like Marchand when he’s playing his game. But will he be able to keep that edge to his game without drawing further scrutiny from the league?

“It’s not going to change how I play,” said Marchand, who has 16-16-32 totals and is a plus-27 with 75 penalty minutes in 38 games this season. “I have to play this way to be in the league. That’s hockey and sometimes things happen.”

But even Marchand admitted that he did alter some decisions in the wake of his last suspension.

“There was one time where I was careful about a slew foot,” Marchand said, “but other than that, there’s not much that creeps into your head during a game. Things happen so quickly.”

Staying away from cheap shots like slew foots is a good thing, but Marchand can’t abandon his physical game all together. It’s a fine line to balance, and one made even tougher now that he knows he’s been put on notice by the league.

“It’s a pretty delicate situation,” Julien said. “He got five games for that hit. They deemed it low. Well, he’s 5-foot something. You see the same kind of hit happen with [Ottawa’s Nick] Foligno, but he’s 6-foot-1, so they’re going to deem he didn’t go as low. It’s a touchy situation. He’s going to learn from it. He’s going to try to adjust his game from it, because he’s been told to do that. We all respect what the league is trying to do, and yet he still played hard and competed hard. I was happy with his return.”

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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