New year, new expectations for Lucic

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New year, new expectations for Lucic

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Milan Lucic spent his first three seasons with the Bruins awash in potential, and showered in comparisons to power forwards with gaudy offensive totals.

Last season, the potential was realized as Lucic stepped into the offensive breach to post a 30-goal season. He nearly doubled his previous high in shots on goal by firing 179 shots on net and still maintained a 17 percent shooting percentage, thanks to his quick release, true aim for the scoring areas that he carved out around the cage with his big body.

Thats a gargantuan step up for a big lug of a forward that had previously popped in a career high of 17 goals, and was coming off an injury plagued season of finger and foot problems.

But will this be a case of Be careful what you ask for, because you just mightget it?Because, after all, everyone will expect Lucic to at least match the 30 goals, 60 points and plus-28 he posted last year.

Lucic knows that the expectations are there for him to match it moving forward. No matter what he does offensively over the rest of his NHL career, Lucic will always be looked at as a potential 30-goal scorer and expected to be a key offensive contributor for the Bruins. Its something hes acknowledged heading into the new season, but its also a thought that could get him into trouble if he dwells on it a little too much.

Ill tell you one thing: it was hard to get to that level last year, but I think its going to be even harder to match it again this season, said Lucic. Clearly I set the bar for myself and its going to be a challenge to get back to that mark. But if you start thinking about scoring goals and thats all that youre worried about thats when you start getting frustrated, forcing things and making uncharacteristic plays that you dont usually make.

Lucic can get into trouble when he strays too far away from the punishing forechecking, immovable puck possession and high effort formula that hes become renowned for around the NHL,

I know Ive got to remember those little things and those simple things like being strong up and down the walls that make me so successful, said Lucic. My focus is between the ears and getting my feet moving, and everything else usually tends to take care of itself.

What will be fascinating is if the goal-scoring and 16:35 of ice time per game expected out of Lucic mean that his gloves will be fastened to his hands in a decidedly non-fighting fashion. Lucic has become valuable enough to the Bruins that its counter-productive to have him loitering in the penalty box or banged up from battling the Colton Orr-types of the NHL world, but a good hockey brawl also helps fire up the forwards competitive embers when things get a little too quiet.

One thing is for certain: the career path and expectations of a player with such a unique combination of punishing brute strength and hockey skills wont necessarily go in a straight line.

The effort and will are always going to be there for No. 17, and the results along with some league accolades should start to follow.

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