Lucic will miss Horton, excited for Iginla

Lucic will miss Horton, excited for Iginla
September 4, 2013, 4:00 pm
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WILMINGTON – Milan Lucic lost more than a linemate when Nathan Horton signed a lengthy, lucrative deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first couple of days in July’s free agent frenzy. The B’s left winger waved goodbye to the bookend power forward that helped make the line of Lucic, Horton and David Krejci so effective over the last three years.

The defunct HuLK line combined for 23 goals, 64 points and a plus-45 in 66 combined postseason games during last year’s run to the Cup Final, so Horton’s offensive contributions will clearly be missed.  

But Lucic, in particular, also bid adieu to a good friend on and off the ice. Lucic didn’t begrudge Horton for finding a quieter, more remote NHL suitor willing to pony up the seven year, $37.1 million deal he eventually signed for. Horton joined Andrew Ference, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin as key members of the B's core that moved on after last season.

Clearly it wasn’t an easy pill to swallow when Horton left Boston for the improving Blue Jackets, and took his two Game 7 game-winning goals from the 2011 Cup team with him.

“It’s tough. For me personally it’s more than just losing a teammate. It’s somebody that I spent a lot of time with in his time here,” said Lucic. “But at the end of the day you realize that it’s a business. It’s unfortunate to see him go because he was a big part of what we’ve done here over the last three years.

“But you’ve got to move on, and turn the page . . . wish him all the best. I talked to him a little bit about (being a free agent), but he was a UFA and could make any decision that he wants. He got a pretty good deal out of it. There are no grudges or anything like that. We just want to focus on who is here, and the team we have.”

The B’s bruising winger knows Horton’s exodus to Ohio broke up a pretty potent postseason trio that dominated NHL defenses until Horton’s shoulder popped out in the Stanley Cup Final. Enter Jarome Iginla, who is expected to slip right into Horton’s spot as a big-bodied, sharpshooting righty skating on the right wing.

Clearly, there are differences: Horton is a little bigger than Iginla at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and a lot younger at 29 years old. But despite all of his accomplishments as a postseason stud, Horton couldn’t come close to touching the kind of consistency and leadership Iginla has provided since breaking into the league in 1996.

“Just looking at Horton being a right-handed shot, so is Iggy. You could make a pretty good guess where he’d fit in pretty well with us,” said Lucic. “[Horton] was a great shooter, and [Iginla] has been one of the best goal-scorers of the last 15 years. You hope it fits, and that the chemistry works from Day One. If he is with us, we’ll have to work at it to make it as good as it can be.”

Given that Iginla was the NHL’s prototypical power forward for the last decade and his 12 straight seasons of 30 plus goals prior to last year’s lockout-shortened campaign, Lucic is pretty hopeful his line won’t miss a beat. The former Calgary Flames captain is clearly on the back nine of his career at 36 years old, but Lucic and Co. feel there is still some game to be squeezed out of him.

“He’s a great player. He hasn’t scored 500 plus goals by accident,” said Lucic. “A lot of people doubted him and the way he played at the end of the year. But he’s a guy with a lot of pride that plays hard. He’s going to step in here, and be one of those fresh faces.

“He’s really excited to be a member of the Boston Bruins, and that’s what you want to see out of future Hall of Famer.”