Lucic establishing "leader" credentials

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Lucic establishing "leader" credentials

BOSTON -- The same words are often tossed around with Milan Lucic.

Words like beast, intimidator, bruiser and prototypical power forward have always been associated with the Bruins left winger during his five seasons in Boston.

But theres a new one that continues to emerge as he gains in experience and stature around the league: leader.

Great leaders summon signature performances when their team needs them most in the big moments, and Lucic had himself a whale of a game in a very necessary 4-3 shootout win over the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.

Leadership is about action every bit as much as its about words, and he had both going for him in a pivotal Saturday matinee.

It was Lucic that tied the game with less than two minutes remaining in the third period to assure Boston would get the overtime point, it was Lucic that led the Bruins with seven shots on net while dominating through 60 minutes and it was Lucic that made sure his hockey club got the W by whatever means were necessary.

Tyler Seguin had a solid effort in his own right with offensive chances and Bostons first score in the shootout, but he didnt hesitate when asked what he was thinking watching No. 17 barrel his way through the Preds.

I was thinking hes a leader, said Seguin. We definitely needed our leaders to step up tonight and they definitely did. Zee, Bergie and Loochthe list goes on. I think all the guys stepped up today and showed good character.

Character has never been in doubt for Lucic during his five seasons in Boston, and in the last two years his on-ice production and consistency have matched all of the intangibles he brings to the table. Lucic was just an 18-year-old learning the ropes when he first arrived in town, but his imprint on the Black and Gold has grown stronger and stronger each season.

It was Lucic, after all, who had a goal taken from him early in the embarrassing 6-0 loss to the Sabres.

He was the poster boy for the frustration and aggravation the Bs felt after enduring one of the worst spankings Lucic has endured during his time with the Bruins.

He harnessed all that frustration and pent-up anger into one of his best games of the year. True to his nature, he also didnt want the credit afterward despite being Bostons best forward on the ice that day.

Its, you know not just myself, I think the whole team we have a lot of pride. We dont like losing, even if its 1-0 never mind 6-0. You never want to get down on yourself and start feeling sorry for yourself. I think thats when the pride kicks in. Its up to different guys at different times to step up and play big at key moments, said Lucic. We had that here today. You look at the Campbell line there, theyve been playing so well for so long and they just havent been getting the results.

They finally step up and score a big goal for us so. I talked about it yesterdaysomeone asked me if you cant just depend on one line going and getting all the goals. You have to get it by committee. I think we had all 20 guys definitely going here tonight.

It would have been heart-breaking had Mike Fishers third period goal through the pads of Tim Thomas served as the regulation game-winner after the Bruins had dominated the Predators through three periods. But Lucic and his teammates have learned about the refusal to lose while grinding all the way to a Stanley Cup championship.

That Stanley Cup level stubbornness was on display with the Bruins determined to make Saturday the day that their stretch of mediocrity is dead and buried.

Thats what we were talking about most: not getting frustrated, staying on course, keep getting pucks to the net, keep trying to find those rebounds and keep creating those scoring chances. We wanted to keep working hard and getting on pucks, said Lucic. That was more of the talk than guys getting on each other or getting on themselves. It was a pretty positive feeling on the bench and it was a workman-like feel on the bench and on the ice too. Thats what kept us going for that whole game.

Desperation was in full flight as the Bruins had pulled Tim Thomas from the game, and all comeback efforts seemed futile against Pekka Rinne on a day that he was feeling it. But the Bruins kept pushing and Lucic drew a tripping call on Sergei Kostitsyn while controlling the puck in the offensive zone. That gave Lucic and the Bruins a punchers chance to tie things up.

They did just that on the ensuing power play when Rich Peverley fired a shot wide from the high slot that bounced off the end boards, and took a quick bounce back toward the front of the net. Lucic was barreling down with all his speed crashing at the net, and he lifted a backhander over Rinne after the puck bounced directly on his stick.

With 67 seconds left on the clock it was Lucic giving his Bruins life where it appeared there was none.

At that stage, its all out. We had some good puck bounces off the boards tonight, and it came right out, said Claude Julien. Because he had some good speed, he was able to whack that puck in. We kind of needed that break.

It would have beenit probably would have been a real tough loss had we not been able to come out with a win the way we had played this afternoon. He found a way to get us back into it.

The fortuitous bounce of the puck is exactly what Lucic and the Bruins both needed, but it was hard-earned after the Bs power forward had dominated play heading into the final stretch.

When he plays like that hes obviously tough to defend, hes so big, and when theres a team that plays on man-on-man like that its tough for that defender to stay on himhes so strong, said Patrice Bergeron, who has watched Lucic mature into a bona fide NHL force of nature over the years. I think he made some great plays to get it to the net and just drive and use his speed and his body. He had a great game.

Aside from the team importance, the goal also had some pretty weighty significance for Lucic on an individual level as well. The game-tying strike was Lucics 20th goal of the season, and made him the first NHL player this season to reach both the 20 goal and 100 penalty minute plateaus in the ultimate signal of his strength-and-skill game.

The 20 goals scored also gives him his second straight season of achieving that mark a piece of proof that Lucic is much more than the third line energy player some thought he might be upon entering the league.

Hes also not done yet. After potting 30 goals last season Lucic is again looking to crack the 30-goal barrier again this season and prove that hes one of the best young players in the NHL today.

When you have a season like I did last year, you kind of set a bar for yourself and you want to keep that consistency in your game, admitted Lucic. Im still young so you want to try to get better every year.

Its been great Ive been able to get to that 20-goal mark two straight years. There are 29 games left and hopefully I can get to the 30 mark again.

Hes done it with his production and hes doing it with big game performances when his Bruins team needs him most.

Thats what being a great hockey player is all about.

Lucic continues to show thats exactly what hes growing into with each and every season.

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

BRIGHTON, Mass -- The Bruins lost Matt Beleskey for six weeks to a knee injury this week, and now they’re hoping to get another winger back now that 22-year-old Frank Vatrano has rejoined the Bruins at practice.

Vatrano was wearing a red no-contact jersey at Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, but his presence along with the other players at the team skate means that he’s moving closer toward a return to the B’s lineup. While initial timetables for his recovery from foot surgery had him in the early January range for returning to the Bruins lineup, it appears that he might be at least a couple of weeks ahead of that initial expectation.

Either way Vatrano is happy to be back on the ice with his teammates after the torn ligaments in his foot wiped out his training camp and the first two plus months of the regular season for him.

“It was a big step for me today. It was nice to be out there with the guys for the first time,” said Vatrano, who scored a combined 44 goals last season for Providence and Boston in a breakout season with the B’s organization. “I’ve gone through the rehab and done everything I need to do to get back playing, so now the next step is getting back on the ice with the guys. I felt great, so now it’s just waiting to hear the news when I start playing again.”

While Vatrano is still a young, relatively inexperienced player with just one full year of pro hockey under his belt, the sense from the Bruins is that he’s going to help a team that’s currently ranked 25th in the NHL in offense. Claude Julien was encouraged by seeing him out there in the red, no-contact jersey that his teammates were chirping him about, and said that his level play at last spring’s world championships should give him confidence when he jumps back into a big role with the Black and Gold.

“It’s a step in the right direction for Frank. That’s the best way for him to get to the pace of our game because it’s going to take a while when you’ve been out that long,” said Vatrano. “I think his experience at world championships last year is a real blessing in disguise because he gained a lot of confidence there. I think that’s going to help him a lot more than had he not gone.

“He played against a lot of elite players last year, and he fared really well. I think he’ll be coming in now with some confidence, and we just have to sure coming in that we give him every opportunity to succeed by using him properly, and giving him a chance to find his game.”

That certainly sounds like the Bruins are preparing for a top-6 role and maybe some power play time once the young, sharp-shooting Vatrano is back up to full speed. That should be fun to watch once he’s ready to play, and ready to again unleash that shot and release that rivals anybody else for tops on the Bruins roster. 

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

BOSTON -- Ryan Spooner has definitely heard the reports out there that he’s being shopped in trade by the Boston Bruins, and he played like a guy that didn’t want to be moved in Monday’s win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

Spooner had his good skating legs, created chances for his teammates and set up the third period goal that got the B’s into overtime when he flipped a shot at the net that was tipped in by David Backes while camped out around the crease. Spooner finished with an assist and a plus-1 rating along with five shot attempts in his 14:24 of ice time, and looked much more like the energized, creative player that was at the heart of some pretty good offensive things last season.

In other words, Spooner looked much more like the talented young player that finished with 13 goals and 49 points last season while centering the third line.

“I think there were five or six games there where I felt I wasn’t playing a bad game. Then six or seven games there where it was hard to get, I guess, the ice time that I wanted,” said Spooner. “At the end of the day, I’ve been a little bit inconsistent.

“I just have to go out there and use my speed and my skill and I found that in the game here. I thought that I did that and I just need to play with that, and I should be fine.”

Multiple sources have indicated to CSN New England that the Bruins are talking about a possible Ryan Spooner deal with multiple teams including the Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders. Part of it is certainly the need for the Bruins to collect a bit more goal-scoring as Monday night’s win was just the eighth time in 26 games this season that Boston’s offense has scored more than two goals.

Part of it is also, however, a challenging season for Spooner where he’s been in and out of Claude Julien’s dog house while getting dropped to the fourth line at times, and even being left off the power play a handful of times as well. He’s played out of position at left wing rather than center and has underachieved to three goals and nine points in 25 games largely played with David Krejci and David Backes.

Whatever the history and the number of potential trade scenarios, Spooner said was “fed up” with all of it in his own words as he headed into Monday night’s game, and one thing remained true above all else: He wants to stick around as a member of the Bruins.

“I try to just put it in the back of my mind. When I was 17, I went through the same thing [in junior hockey]. I definitely want to play here,” said Spooner. “I want to help out and that’s kind of where I’m at now. If I play like I did [against the Panthers], I think I’ll be fine. I just want to go out, I want to help out, and that’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

The Black and Gold are looking for a top-6 forward capable of putting the puck in the net on the trade market in any possible deal involving Spooner, but it would seem that the 23-year can control his own destiny in Boston if he starts generating offense and putting the puck in the net. Spooner did just that on Monday night while setting up a third period goal, and lo and behold the Bruins offense posted four goals after struggling to get more than two for most of the season.

That could turn into the kind of trend that keeps Spooner in Boston if he knocks out the inconsistency in his game, and instead steps on the gas pedal and brings the speed and skill that got him to the NHL in the first place.