Lucic looking to pick up the pace

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Lucic looking to pick up the pace

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

Milan Lucic is Bostons offensive game-breaker with his team-leading 30 goals, and theres little argument there.

Lucic has come to the forefront with an improved shot and release, and theres nothing to dislike about his skating game when hes moving with purpose and power to clean opponents out in the corner or camping in front of the net with his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame.

But Lucic will also go through cycles in his game when his work ethic wanes ever so slightly and his nose for the net is lost, and thats been the case over the last two games as the hulking left wing hasnt registered a single shot.

For Lucic to not get one shot in 35:03 of ice time is something that hasnt happened much this season. In fact, its only happened twice, and Lucic hasnt gone three straight games without a shot.

We want to make sure that we dont coast going into the playoffs. We want to make surer were staying sharp, and that were at our best when were heading into it, said Lucic. If you look at the games when weve been most successful, its been when weve been strong on the puck in the other teams zone, getting in front of the net and getting to the dirty areas.

Look at Nathan Hortons goal Sunday night. Both of us get to the front of the net, we get a good shot from the point and we pick up a rebound. Same with the power-play goal we scored against Montreal. Its just about getting to those areas where the rebounds are going to be. We have to use our bodies to muscle our way in . . . thats for sure.

Coach Claude Julien has seen these kinds of short stretches from Lucic before and the biggest key is to nip any bad habits early on before it becomes a 10-game scoreless stretch, like the power forward went through earlier this season.

Julien wants to see more of the simple power-and-possession game out of Lucic and fellow big body Horton when chasing after pucks, and its clear they havent been at their powerful best over the last two games.

Their line hasnt been quite as productive because I think theyre trying to force some plays at the blue line and trying to make clean plays rather than realizing sometimes youve got to get pucks in deep, said Julien. With Horton and Lucic on both sides, youve got to realize youre going to come up with it most times and be able to control it, and I think they just have to put a little more grit in their minds.

Sometimes its not always going to be pretty and youve got to put a little work into it. Thats a small adjustment they can make easily. Theyve done it before, and if they can do it theyll be a little more productive and a little more into the style of play that has given them success.

Lucic isnt invisible on the ice even when hes not squeezing off shots, however, and was a big presence in front of the net on Hortons game-tying power play goal Sunday night in Philadelphia. Video replays showed two Flyers defenders hovering around Lucic while the rebound was being kicked out, and that left Horton uncovered while hanging out by the left post. He pushed in the rebound for his 23rd goal of the season, but Lucics imprints were all over the goal even if he didnt technically factor into the goal from a statistical standpoint.

Thats proof positive that the 23-year-old is still contributing even when he's not racking up points or goals. But a playoff hockey teams No. 1 line is all about influencing a game and proving some points and production on a consistent basis.

Lucic has been steady with his contributions just about all season, and itll be back to the dirty work for No. 17 Tuesday night against the reigning Stanley Cup champs from Chicago.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

Cassidy quells goaltender controversy: 'Tuukka's our No. 1 goalie'

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While the sequence of events over the past couple of days could understandably lead one to wonder who will start between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night vs. Nashville, interim coach Bruce Cassidy tried to quell any hint of a goalie controversy.

The vote of confidence was certainly needed after Anton Khudobin’s fifth consecutive win halted the B's four-game losing streak with a huge 2-1 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night in the wake of Rask’s absence while tending to a short-term lower body issue.  

“[Rask] had a good practice today. I spoke with him. We’ll see how he wakes up tomorrow and we’ll make our decision. He’s our No. 1 goalie, so there’s no way we can skirt our way around that issue. He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important. When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision,” said Cassidy. “He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year...and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.

“That’s why we have two goaltender, and [Anton Khudobin] has really stepped up in that last stretch and done what’s asked of him. He’s fixed that area of our game. It’s nice to have a guy that’s your No. 2 that can win you hockey games and play well. It’s a great problem to have, to be honest with you. But Tuukka is our No. 1. But Tuukka is our No. 1. He’s our guy.”

Rask declared himself fit to play after going through a full Monday practice with no issues, but said he’s still waiting to hear the final word on whether he’ll play on Tuesday night vs. the Predators. The Bruins franchise goalie also said he isn’t worried about any recurrence of the lower body injury that “popped up” in the Tampa Bay loss Thursday night, which really doesn’t bring any clarity to the entire situation.

“It was a good day back on the ice. I feel good. We’ll see what the decision is [for the Nashville game], but I feel good today,” said Rask, who is 8-8 with a .892 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average since the All-Star break, compared to Khudobin’s 2-0-0 with a .920 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average. “You need to put the best lineup out as possible, and I wasn’t in any shape to play. So, there are no easy decisions this time of year, but I’ve played a lot of hockey and injuries happen. We talked to the training staff and managers and came to a decision that [Khudobin] was going to play the game, and that’s it.

“It’s obviously tough from a personal standpoint, but it’s never about one guy or two guys. It’s a team game and I feel confident that we’re going to get the job done as long as we play the way we did. It was great to see.”

Clearly, it looks like Rask is going to play vs. Nashville and that’s the safe, easy decision when it comes to a No. 1 goalie getting paid $7 million a season and perhaps it all works out with a fired up Finnish netminder after sitting out Saturday night. But nobody is going to be faulted if they wonder what’s going to wrong with Rask ahead of the next gigantic game Boston will have to play with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the line. 

Krejci leaves practice early with 'upper body issue'

Krejci leaves practice early with 'upper body issue'

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins returned to work on Monday after a big win over the weekend, but were one man down by the end of practice at Warrior Ice Arena. David Krejci exited the ice early on Monday and coach Bruce Cassidy said that the playmaking center is battling a bit of an upper body issue.

That was the reason for his abbreviated practice appearance ahead of the game Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.

“He’s got a bit of an upper body issue, he’s got a little discomfort,” said Cassidy of Krejci, who has one point and a minus-4 rating over his past four games. “He got treated and I believe he’ll be fine tomorrow. I don’t think it’s anything major, but I can’t speculate [on it]. But that’s the issue.”

There was no play that sticks out from the Saturday night win over the Islanders were Krejci might have hurt himself, but the team’s hope is obviously that it’s something the 30-year-old can keep playing through.

With Krejci having left the ice, Ryan Spooner bumped up to the second line with the following line combos and D-pairings finishing out an hour-long practice:

 
Marchand-Bergeron-Backes

Stafford-Spooner-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Nash-Hayes

Beleskey-Moore-Acciari

 
Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

C. Miller-K. Miller

 
Rask