Lucic ready for a fight in Buffalo

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Lucic ready for a fight in Buffalo

BUFFALO Milan Lucic knows there may be a fight in his future tonight, and hes not going to back down from it. For the second straight day the Bs power forward met the media head-on at the First Niagara Center and said he understands if Buffalo feels the need to come after him with one of their players.

Whether its Patrick Kaleta, Paul Gaustad or Cody McCormick to take on Lucic, he knows theres likely a fight coming his way given the hockey code. Buffalo embarrassed themselves by not standing up to fight when their franchise goaltender was dumped to the ice by a rushing Lucic, and now the teams reputation is on the line if theres another muted response during the rematch in their own backyard.

Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff and several Sabres players surprisingly lauded Lucic as a clean and honest player, but the Sabres coach also said he didnt respect the takeout check on his goalie.

I respect him as a player. But not for that incident . . . I cant, said Ruff. As a player. I was around him at the Team Canada camp. He plays the game hard. But I cant respect that play.

In other words, Ruff wont be shedding any tears if Lucic is forced to defend his actions with his fists.

If it comes to that, Lucic can handle himself, but he's also been a significant piece to the Bruins offensive puzzle, totalling five goals and eight points during the teams nine-game winning streak.

One day after admitting he expected one of the Sabres players to come after him, Lucic sounded no less sure with only a handful of hours leading up to game time. NHL Sheriff Brendan Shanahan will be watching from his NHL offices and has spoken with the general managers for both teams, but there has been no message thats filtered down to the coaches or the players from high above.

I expect it to be a hard-fought game. We can make whatever we want out of whatever happened and make whatever we want out of tonight in anticipation of it, said Lucic. But I think both teams have a lot more at stake with what the game has on the line with the winner being the top of the Northeast Division. Thats our focus and my focus more than anything.

You have to be prepared going into every game no matter what the situation. I play a physical and its not going to change the way I play the game.

Lucic said in the aftermath that the lacking response would never happen with the Bruins. That's the kind of team the Bruins have been ever since they failed to respond to Matt Cookes elbow to Marc Savards head in 2010. So Lucic and the rest of the Bruins understand the psychology in the Sabres dressing room.

They probably also remember that they were so emotionally drained in the Revenge Game against Cooke that they had nothing in the tank once Shawn Thornton had taken care of the fighting business. Theres every chance that same scenario plays out in Buffalo tonight.

Its fun to be a part of rivalries like this. I would have handled things differently if it were my goaltender. I wasnt indirectly calling anybody a coward, said Lucic. We can relate to a couple of years ago when Cooke hit Savard. Cooke stepped up and fought Thornton so it was over and done with after that.

Its not fun when the media and people are pointing their fingers around about what happened, and they start pointing fingers at guys in the room. Theyre definitely going to be prepared for this game. Not only because of the incident, but because they lost to us 6-2. We know theyre going to be fired up and ready to go tonight.

If the Sabres decide to play it on the rough side, theres little doubt Lucic and the Bruins will be equally fired up.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.