Brad Marchand spoke on Thursday morning for the first time since the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced his five-game suspension for elbowing New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson in Boston on Tuesday night.
The Bruins winger addressed a large media contingent following Boston’s pregame skate at the Canadian Tire Centre ahead of Thursday night’s tilt with the Ottawa Senators.
“I’ve been trying to play a certain way for a while now, and it was never my intent to get into a situation like this, to injure Marcus, so hopefully he has a full healthy recovery very quickly,” said Marchand. “I let my teammates down – I know that – and I let the organization down. I have to be better, there’s no question.
“I respect the league’s decision on the matter. They’re in the right to make the decisions that they do, and I’m going to live with it.”
The suspension, which was levied on Wednesday night, marks the eighth time Marchand has been disciplined by the NHL (six suspensions, two fines) in his career. This one comes at a time during which the Bruins have collected points in 17 straight games. Marchand is also leading the league in scoring this month with 18 points (6 goals, 12 assists).
“The last thing I want to do is do anything to hurt the team, and that’s obviously what I’ve done here. It wasn’t what I was trying to do,” said Marchand. “We have a great team, and they’re going to battle hard and do everything they can to win the games. I’ll be there rooting them on, but I put my team in a disadvantage at the end, and I feel very bad about that.”
Marchand is allowed to participate in this weekend’s All-Star festivities in Tampa and said he will still attend. It is the 29-year-old’s second consecutive selection.
“I’m going to go. I’m very proud of that opportunity,” said Marchand. “It is something I’ve worked very hard for and never thought I’d have the opportunity to do, so it’s something I’m very proud about, and I’m going to go and enjoy every second of it.”
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has had a relationship with Marchand since the winger’s first professional season in Providence, when Cassidy was then an assistant with the P-Bruins. Cassidy chatted with Marchand during Thursday’s morning skate and encouraged him to think about what he would like his legacy to be.
“The thing with Brad is I’ve known him since he was a first-year player, so I know him as a person,” said Cassidy. “That’s what sometimes has disappointed me, that gets lost. I hear opinions out there, they don’t know him as a teammate, as a father, the work he puts in to be a better player. After games he’s always with children in the family room signing something – he’s just a great person with a big heart.
“But Brad does have to take responsibility for his actions, he’s aware of that. He’ll sit his five games and we’ll welcome him back.”
Despite this latest misstep, Marchand believes he has made progress in buttoning up his on-ice actions.
“Obviously, I want to be known as a good player. I’ve worked very hard to become a decent player in this league, and things like this obviously hinder that,” said Marchand. “It’s something that I will continue to work on and be better at, but [Cassidy] is not wrong. I think that some things behind the scenes get lost when things like this happen, but I think that I have good teammates and the organization, my family and friends, they know what I’m trying to do and where I’m trying to be and how much I care about this team, organization, the guys in the room.
“That’s not going to change. Obviously, I am going to be better in areas. I’m going to continue to work on it, but it’s just another step in the road.”
With Marchand out of the lineup, Anders Bjork was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Wednesday night. Bjork played in eight games for the P-Bruins after being assigned on Jan. 3 and notched two goal and two assists. The 21-year-old, who has four goals and eight assists in 28 games with Boston this season, will likely start in Marchand’s spot alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak against the Senators.
“He’s played well. He started offensively very well,” Cassidy said of Bjork’s play in Providence. “What we’re trying to get out of Anders is play a little bit more straight line, understanding when he can make plays, when he’s got to manage the puck better. That was the biggest issue for him coming to this level, where the open ice is, how to get there.
“He’s been working on that. We’ll see where he’s at. He played very well for us earlier this year. We’re confident he can do the job. We’re not asking anyone to replaced Brad – that would be unfair – but just to go play his game and contribute.”
Bjork is hoping to make the most of his chance to play on what has been the hottest line in hockey for the better part of two months.
“It’s exciting. It’s obviously a great opportunity, tons of players would die to be in my position right now,” said Bjork. “I’ve just got to stay focused and make the most of it, do what I can to keep up with the line and be a positive impact.”
Acciari Out, Too
In addition to the absences of Marchand and Charlie McAvoy (ablation procedure), Boston will also be without Noel Acciari on Thursday night as the winger battles a lower-body injury. Frank Vatrano will slide into his place on the fourth line.
“Hopefully the All-Star Break will do him some good,” said Cassidy. “And then we’ll see where he’s at on Tuesday against Anaheim.”
As they did during the season’s first six weeks when they were beset by an unseemly amount of injuries, the Bruins will have to battle through some adversity as they look to extend their points streak to 18 games.
“We’ve had to find ways and simplify our game, make it blue collar and do what we do best,” said Backes. “This is no different of a scenario than if [Marchand's] hurt or suspended. Same with Charlie being out. Hopefully it’s short term and we’re going to have to patch holes, different guys step up to be the hero each night.
“Those guys are significant players, but we’ve done it before and we’ll have to do it again. Every team’s got injuries this time of year or guys out.”