Morning Skate 221: Lucic readying for trip home

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Morning Skate 221: Lucic readying for trip home

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com
Looking forward to the four-day Milan Lucic homecoming set for Vancouver at the end of this week that will include his second career game against his hometown Canucks in the city he grew up in, thousands of bobble heads handed out at Milan Lucic Night on the Friday before the game and close to 10,000 fans crowded into the Pacific Coliseum to fete one of their favorite suns in scenic Vancouver.Lucic is trying to maintain a business-like atmosphere through a very important road trip for team-building and locking their team into place in the standings, but thats a challenge when so many once-in-a-lifetime type things are on tap for big No. 17.Its going to be a lot of fun, obviously, but more importantly we have a job to take care of while were out there, said Lucic. Thats what Im focusing on. Ive been here for four years and its only my second time going out West in Canada, so it doesnt happen that often. On to the links:

SportsNets Ian Mendes always shows off a pretty good sense of humor in his blog posts, and this week he creates the trades hed like to see made in the NHL purely for the comedic value. Interesting take from Vancouver Sunwriter Cam Cole after the Canucks shut it down for a day on their most recent road trip, and didnt allow any media access. I dont see things ever getting as dire as Cole does, but I guess Im just an optimist. Good piece by Friend of Haggs (FOH) Mike McMahon on Jordan Heywood and his amazing comeback this season at Merrimack College after playing through blood clots in his lungs during junior hockey. The Carolina Hurricanes retired Rod BrindAmours number last weekend, and the heart and soul of the Hurricanes deserved every second of the praise. A good look by ESPNs Pierre Lebrun at the future of outdoor hockey in the NHL, and what could be ahead for both the Winter Classic and the Heritage Classic after Sunday nights one-sided win for the Calgary Flames. Puck Daddy contributor Ryan Lambert learned that the Heritage Classic was a poor mans Winter Classic, and doesnt have the brightest of futures. It appears that Colorado coach Joe Sacco and GMGreg Sherman will survive whats becoming a pretty rocky collapse for the Avalanche, no pun intended, and a remaking of the team following the Erik Johnson deal. Former Northeastern University standout goalie Brad Thiessen is putting up big numbers between the pipes at the AHL level, and has become one of the top goalie prospects knocking on the NHLs door. A great if overly colorful -- piece outlining etiquette and the proper way to act in the press box when its your first time. Everybody in the business has had their first day covering a pro sporting event at the highest levels, and this might just help you survive it in fine fashion.

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

Zdeno Chara interested in summer contract extension: 'Of course I would be'

Zdeno Chara interested in summer contract extension: 'Of course I would be'

BRIGHTON, Mass – At 40 years old and entering the final year of his contract with the Bruins, one might expect that Zdeno Chara was hoping to finish things up strong next season and ride off into the Boston sunset as a future Hall of Fame shutdown defenseman. 

One would be totally wrong, however. 

Chara finished off a very strong season for the Bruins as their de facto No. 1 defenseman and averaged a whopping 28:46 of ice time during Boston’s six games of playoff hockey. It wasn’t by design, obviously, as Chara was pushed into some games where he went over 30 minutes of ice time due to the blue line injuries and overtimes, and it wasn’t always perfect as evidenced by Chara’s minus-3 rating in the series and his disastrous delay of game penalty at the end of a Game 2 loss in Ottawa. 

But by and large it was an excellent season for Chara as a shutdown D-man paired with Brandon Carlo where his leadership benefited the 20-year-old rookie, and Carlo’s mobility and puck-moving helped bring out the best in Chara’s game as well. The 10 goals and 29 points and plus-18 in 75 games while averaging 23:20 of ice time was a strong showing for the Bruins captain, and undoubtedly encouraged Chara that the end is not near for his career. 

With that in mind, Chara said during Tuesday’s breakup day that he welcomed a discussion about a contract extension with the Bruins following July 1 as he hopes to continue playing beyond next season. 

“Of course I would,” said Chara, when asked if he’d be interested in an extension this summer. “It’s something where I want to continue to play, and I take a lot of pride in my offseason training and being ready for every season. It’s probably something that management has to think about and make a decision about, but I’ve said many times that I would like to play beyond this contract. 

“I want to still be very effective and still get better and improving while maintaining my game, and adding to my game. It’s a game that’s going extremely fast as we go forward with a lot of skill assets. You have to be able to make those adjustments, and that’s a focus for me going into every season so I can be an effective player.”

Clearly it would need to be under optimal conditions for the Bruins to extend Chara at this point in his career, but a short term contract that pays the aging D-man something in the neighborhood of next season’s cap hit ($4 million) would be palatable for a player that’s easily still a top-4 defenseman in the twilight of his career. 

There just shouldn’t be any expectation he’s going to get additional term or be anywhere close to his salary total for this season that was in the $7 million range, and instead it will be a potential contract extension that reflects Chara’s value to the Bruins even if Mother Nature is starting to slow him down a little bit. 

Chara’s skating game certainly has slowed for a 6-foot-9 defenseman that never counted skating as a real strength, and you don’t ever see him wind up and blast away full strength with that 108-mph slap shot that was featured in so many All-Star Game Skills Competitions over the years. But he can also still be a shutdown guy, a dominant penalty killer and an intimidating presence in the defensive zone that causes every offensive player to take pause when he’s out there. 

Even if Chara eventually becomes a middle-pairing defenseman over the course of the next couple of seasons, the Bruins could still use his presence on and off-the-ice as a defensive stopper and a mentor to all the young D-men in the organization. So it may be that the Bruins are just as interested as their 40-year-old captain in extending things another year or two with so much roster turnover toward youth expected on the B’s back end over the next few seasons.  

Brandon Carlo 'frustrated' that concussion caused him to miss playoffs

Brandon Carlo 'frustrated' that concussion caused him to miss playoffs

BRIGHTON, Mass – It wasn’t Brandon Carlo’s first concussion that he suffered at the end of the regular season after getting clobbered on a hit from behind by Alex Ovechkin, but it was the worst one that the 20-year-old had ever experienced as a hockey player.

Carlo said he was getting closer to returning to the lineup when the Bruins dropped Game 6 to the Ottawa Senators in overtime last weekend, and that he was pretty much out of the woods with the symptoms. Instead, the 6-foot-5 rookie defenseman was relegated to missing the entire Stanley Cup playoff experience after playing in all 82 regular season games as a first year player, and will be asking “What If?” along with the rest of a Bruins roster that never got to compete in the postseason with their full complement of players.

“It was pretty frustrating. You go through all 82 games and you build toward the playoffs, and that was a big thing for us. There was a lot of attention around trying to get back into the playoffs, and I just wanted to be a part of it. Watching was a different perspective for me, and a little frustrating,” said Carlo. “But at the same time, you try to take something positive out of every situation, and seeing the guys come out for the first playoff game at home sent chills up and down my body. Those are the scenarios I hope to be in as a player, and hopefully going forward I can be in those positions.

“I think I would have been able to come back pretty soon [after Game 6] honestly. I was getting past all these symptoms, and once I would have gotten past some of the conditioning hopefully I would have been back in the lineup.”

Certainly the Bruins missed Carlo in the postseason after he finished with six goals and 16 points along with a plus-9 while averaging 20:49 of ice time per game. The absence of both Carlo and Adam McQuaid on the penalty kill turned Boston from the NHL’s No. 1 ranked PK unit to one that allowed six power play goals (five technically, but the Game 2 game-winner was mere seconds after a Sens PP had expired), and against Ottawa’s 1-3-1 trap they certainly could have used another player in Carlo that can fairly adeptly move the puck up the ice. 

Instead the 20-year-old will head back to Colorado for the summer to train and prepare for his second NHL season after a super-solid rookie campaign, and hope that he can remain healthy next time around in the postseason after going through the entire regular season without incident until getting clocked by Ovechkin in game No. 82.