WILMINGTON -- It was a small, first step for Milan Lucic on his long journey back to finding his game.
The Bruins' power forward returned to the lineup on Sunday afternoon in Boston’s 3-0 shutout win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden after sitting out Saturday’s game as a healthy scratch for the first time since his rookie season in Boston.
Lucic didn’t end up on the scoresheet while skating with Rich Peverley and David Krejci for a modest 12:54 of ice time on Sunday, and he has scored only four goals in his last 35 games played.
But that being said, Lucic certainly skated a few strides in the right direction on Sunday.
After a quiet first period, the Bruins' left wing started getting into the swing of things. On his first shift of the second period, he logged three registered hits and started throwing bodies around on the punishing forecheck that has been his calling card over the last six years.
Lucic also finished with three shots on net in a good show of getting into the mix of physicality and offensive pressure.
Coach Claude Julien was satisfied with Lucic's play following the win.
"[He was] a little bit more involved," Julien said. "You can’t go from zero to 60 in one game. It’s just a matter of him doing some things a little bit better, which he did today. We’ve got four more games here before the end of the season and hopefully he continues to take some positive strides.”
Lucic was back out on the ice for practice on Monday morning with the rest of the his teammates. The expectation is that his game will return over the next week as his mind, body and spirit all seem willing to summon one of the biggest, baddest players in the NHL. He’s been missing for far too long, and his Black and Gold hockey club needs him badly.