Lucic breaks out of slump at perfect time


Lucic breaks out of slump at perfect time

By Danny Picard

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; Following Game 7 of the Montreal series, Bruins coach ClaudeJulien was asked about the health of Milan Lucic.

Seemed like a question that a coach wouldnt even answer,following an overtime thriller that clinched a first-round playoff seriesagainst the rival Canadiens. And while Julien would never answer that questionwith any type of truth (most injuries arent leaked until season is officiallyover), even he understood why it was being asked.

Lucic had only two assists in that first-round series. Attimes, it looked as if something was wrong with the Bruins forward. It wouldbe no surprise to anyone if Lucic was playing through some type of injury orillness.

Those struggles continued in the second round against thePhiladelphia Flyers. Through the first three games, he only had one assist inGame 3. Heading into Friday nights Game 4, Lucic was one of only five Bruinsskaters without a goal. The others were Adam McQuaid, Tomas Kaberle, ShaneHnidy, and Shawn Thornton.

To put that into perspective, thats three defensemen and anenforcer. Not to take anything away from what those four other players do, butLucic established himself as being on a different level, when it comes to goalscoring.

Zero goals and just three assists through the first 10playoff games wasnt what anyone in Boston had in mind for the power forwardwho scored 30 goals in the regular season.

In fact, his scoreless drought dated back further than justthe first 10 playoff games. If you want to include the last 10 games of theregular season, Lucic hadnt scored a goal in 20 games.

He snapped that skid on Friday night, leading the way inBostons 5-1 win over the Flyers, helping the Bruins clinch their second-roundplayoff series with a four-game sweep, and advancing to their first EasternConference Final since 1992.

Lucic scored Bostons first and third goals in the win, andproclaimed afterwards, that the monkey is off his back.

It feels good, said Lucic. Its been kind of frustrating thelast 20 games, not being able to put the puck in the back of the net. Tonight,I was just able to get open, and when I got those opportunities, both weregreat plays by Nathan Horton to set me up, and when I got thoseopportunities, it was nice to step up and score big goals.

The first one came with eight minutes left in the firstperiod, and it gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead. It was also Bostons secondpower-play goal of the playoffs.

Lucic was parked out front of the net, and received a quicktouch pass from Nathan Horton, where Lucic easily put the puck into an openright side of the net.

His second of the game was just as big, as it give theBruins a 3-1 lead with 4:57 left in the third period. This one came on abreakaway, after Horton found him streaking up the ice with a perfect leadpass.

From 20-game slump, to multi-goal hero, Lucic was the playerof the game on Friday night.

I tried my hardest not to get frustrated, said Lucic.There was a time there when I was really frustrated, but right now, obviously,it feels good to step up and help the team win a big game. Moving forward, youwant to keep pushing for more.

It almost seemed like it wasnt fun for me these lastcouple of games, added Lucic. Thats when it comes to my teammates having myback, and telling me to just stick with it, and start having fun again, andjust relax, and get into those areas where I did score a lot of goals thisyear.

Rightfully so, Lucic was sporting the Bruins player of thegame jacket after his two-goal performance. The last time received that honorwas the last time he scored, back on March 22.

Last time I wore this jacket was a big win for us againstthe Devils when I got my 30th goal, said Lucic. This win, regardless of thetwo goals, this win is a huge win for our hockey club and our organization.

Hes a good player for us, said veteran Mark Recchi afterthe win. Hes a big, physical presence. The puck wasnt going in the net forhim. He started to show signs of getting his legs under him again, and when youhavent scored for a while you tend to get tight. Hes a young kid andhopefully now hes found a really good time to start getting hot.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins mixed things up with their roster a bit on Saturday after dropping a couple of games in a row to Washington and Colorado. 

Fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari and playmaking forward Danton Heinen were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. 
Acciari went to Providence the past couple of days to get some game action in after missing the past month with a lower body injury, but clearly showed he’s ready to go. 

So, Acciari is back to provide the same hard-hitting and energy he showed before he was hurt and Heinen is looking to show off a little more offense than in his first stint with the Black and Gold this season. He’ll be featured in a top role as left wing with David Krejci and David Backes and with marching orders to shoot the puck like he never shot it in his previous stint in Boston. 

For the Bruins, it’s about getting another look at a candidate to play left wing beside Krejci with both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, with limitations to their respective games, unable to fully grasp that same opportunity. 

“My hope is that Heinen can come in and give us some good hockey. He’s a skill player and he’s been down there for a while, and he’s back up again because he’s been playing well,” said Claude Julien of the Bruins rookie, who had four goals and seven points in his past five games with Providence. “Hopefully he can play well here also. It’s about getting some confidence. When he went down to [the AHL] the pace of his game had to get a little bit better, and in the battles coming up with the puck along the walls. Those are the kinds of things we thought he could work on down in Providence.”

Heinen knows he needs to shoot the puck a bit more to show off his offense after a seven-game stint with the Bruins where he went scoreless, was a minus-2 and had just six shots on net.

“Being hard on the walls, playing fast and shooting the puck, those were all things I was working on [in Providence],” said Heinen, who has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins after being assigned to Providence. “I was doing what they told me to do [in Providence] and that’s shoot the puck. They were going in, and I was getting some good opportunities on the power play. It’s seriously tough to get chances [at the NHL level], so you can’t pass them up when you have chances. That was kind of my focus down there.”

Fellow fourth-line energy winger Anton Blidh has been shipped to Providence after three solid games with the Black and Gold. 

Julien said Blidh goes back to Providence having adequately shown that he can play in the NHL. He clearly showed the Bruins that he understands his role as a player that stirs things up a bit and gets his nose dirty on a regular basis.

“[Blidh] was fine. No issues there. He does his job. He plays with lots of energy and obviously he’s getting more experience. He’s a lot better at understanding his positioning within the game and what he has to do,” said Julien. “I thought he helped us out for the time that he was here.”

With Heinen and Acciari both in the lineup and Blidh back in Providence, that means Jimmy Hayes will be scratched after dressing for three of the past four games for Boston.

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas, scoring on NHL governors' minds

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas, scoring on NHL governors' minds

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while doing some early Christmas shopping ahead of the late rush. 

*Mike Zeisberger sits down with a quartet of NHL governors and discusses a number of hot topics including the Vegas franchise and scoring around the league. 

*Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos has been removed from the NHL Board of Governor’s Executive Committee amid rumors that the Canes might be a prime candidate for relocation. 

*Pierre McGuire weighs in on Connor McDavid’s war of words on the ice and Carey Price losing his mind in the crease against the New Jersey Devils. To that end, Wayne Gretzky liked seeing McDavid get a little combative at such a young age. 

*The New York Islanders signed Cal Clutterbuck to a five year contract extension, and some are skeptical it will turn out well for the Isles.

*David Pastrnak is a premier scoring threat in the league, and Scott Cullen has some details behind that. I will say this: his stock falling in the draft had less to do with his size or heaviness, and more to do with him being concussed for a long stretch of time during the year leading up to the draft. 

*The Florida Panthers are really struggling to stay positive with a 1-5-0 record since the ownership group and management decided to fire Gerard Gallant. 

*For something completely different: Baywatch stars then and now.