Lucic admits his line "needs to step up their game"

Lucic admits his line "needs to step up their game"
March 15, 2013, 4:15 pm
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WILMINGTON, MA -– Milan Lucic knows it’s time for his line to step up and start producing again.

The 24-year-old has only one goal in his last 14 games, and has been goal-less with just three assists along with a minus-3 in eight games during the month of March. Lucic has looked sluggish on his skates and indecisive with the puck on his stick, and that’s usually the look for No. 17 when he’s in the middle of a prolonged slump.

Lucic’s line actually did produce a goal in Thursday night’s win over the Panthers, and escaped a negative plus/minus for the first time in the last three games. So there was progress, but Lucic knows he, David Krejci and Nathan Horton can still be much better than they’ve been over the last month.

“It’s about using our speed and using our size. That’s what gives us a lot of success and allows us to play in the offensive zone a little more,” said Lucic. “[It’s good] when we play off each other and use that chemistry that we’ve built over the last few years."

“We can definitely be a line that contributes and can be dangerous. It’s a mindset right now to get us back to where we want to be as a line and as a team. With a lot of games coming up for our team we’re definitely going to have to step up our game to a different level.”

Lucic had three shots on net in 17:07 of ice time against the Panthers, and that’s a good start moving in the proper direction for him. He narrowly missed a goal when a Horton centering pass knocked off his right skate and went wide left of the open net. Their line had a goal disallowed on an iffy goalie interference call on Lucic camped just outside the crease.

So there was evidence that they’re busting out of the offensive shackles.

But all that being said, Lucic simply hasn’t been aggressive enough in the offensive zone all season long, and he knows it. The Bruins power forward hasn’t let loose with the puck when he’s facing a good, open scoring chance at the net. It happened again on Thursday night when Lucic opted to pass across the ice rather than shooting on a 3-on-2 rush, and the puck was harmlessly knocked away.

It’s been a bit of a season-long theme for No. 17, who has only 36 shots on goal in 24 for an average of 1.5 shots per game. Last season Lucic averaged 1.84 shots per game and during the 2010-11 Cup season the power forward averaged 2.19 shots per game, and he also averaged 29 goals scored over each of those two seasons.

He knows he needs to return to that mentality if he wants the offensive production to materialize as well.

“I just have to get [shots] through. I’ve had a bunch of them blocked, and [I’m] over-passing a little bit too. I think a ‘shoot first’ mentality is something I’ve had the last two years and it’s something I need to get back to. As of right now, that’s where I’m at,” said Lucic. “It’s frustrating that I haven’t been able to get a goal here, but you’ve got to just stick with it. Like I said, I think it’s a mindset. We’re in a place right now where we’re being tested, and asked to show our true character. If we do that then it’s going to make us better as players.”

It’s something the coaching staff is preaching to Lucic, and to his partner in crime, Horton, as well.

“Frustration can be normal. They should be feeling that way,” said Claude Julien. “Both [Lucic and Horton] have great shots, and they’ve got to use them when they’re there. They tend to get too unselfish where they’re always looking for the extra play, and that extra play can sometimes end up in a bad decision.

“They need to be a little more selfish when they have shooting opportunity. When they’re in a great spot they’ve got to take the shot. They are both very capable of scoring on those initial shots.”

Julien said one thing that’s not being considered: switching up his lines. He is loathe to break up the red hot Patrice Bergeron/Brad Marchand/Tyler Seguin combo, and the Bruins won’t have another winger ideally suited for that top line role unless he arrives via a trade before April 3.

So Lucic and the rest of his line will get their chance to “step up their game” starting this weekend, and they return to the setting of one of their down games when they head back to Pittsburgh for a St. Patrick’s Day matinee against the Penguins.

Perhaps there will be a new and improved Lucic playing just like last year’s model when they get their second shot at the Capitals and Penguins this weekend.

That’s what he’s shooting for, anyway.