Lucic checks in during busy offseason

191545.jpg

Lucic checks in during busy offseason

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
LOWELL Milan Lucic is breathing a lot easier these days.

The 25-year-old power forward had sinus surgery last Wednesday with Dr. TessaHadlock at Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary to straighten out an extremely deviated septum after four years of punching and being punched at the NHL level.

Lucic actually had seven separate breaks in his nose, dating back to a face-first plunge into the end boards in Philadelphia during his rookie season, and the 30-goal scorer called his nose area a big mess.

"I had surgery to straighten out the septum. It was broken in seven different places, said Lucic at LeLacheur Park in Lowell promoting his NMTW Rock and Jock Celebrity Softball Game at the home of the Lowell Spinners on Aug. 24 that benefits Celebrities for Charity. The first three days getting over it were pretty horrible, but Im breathing normally now. So Ill be good for camp.

Lucic said he was actually gasping for breathe at times during the playoffs because he couldnt breathe out of his left nostril due to the severe break within his nose. One thing Lucic didnt fix, however, was the prominent Serbian character in his beak thats always characterized No. 17.

He might be scoring more goals, but hes also still fighting and throwing body checks. Looch certainly hasnt gone Hollywood with his nose surgery.

"I didn't want to go with the pretty Brad Pitt look, he said, laughing. I wanted to keep the Lucic look going. Its the strong facial features.

So with that taken care of, Lucic is off to Edmonton for Johnny Boychuks wedding this weekend before getting ready for his time with the Stanley Cup in his home city of Vancouver. Lucic plans to take the Cup to his high school and the Agrodome rink where he learned to skate in East Vancouver, before hiking it up to the top of Mount Grouse that overlooks the city of Vancouver.

When we won the Memorial Cup we all took pictures with it on top of Mount Grouse, and thats actually the picture thats in the background on my laptop, said Lucic. I always told my family that someday Id replace that with a Stanley Cup photo on top of Mount Grouse, and now I can go out and do that. Itll be great.

Lucic has enjoyed almost a month of celebration since winning the Cup, and has had plenty of time to think about what transpired during the 24 playoff games that started against the Habs and ended with celebrations on the ice in Vancouver after Game 7. Lucic said he felt compelled to thank the fans that have approached him with gratitude after bringing the Cup back to Boston.

He also had some interesting thoughts about when he felt the turning point within the playoffs arrived. It wasnt against the Canucks or during a hard-fought seven games against the Tampa Bay Lightning but instead came against the Habs when Boston was immediately pushed to the wall with two home losses to start the series.

The Bruins won Game 3 at the Bell Centre, escaped to Lake Placid for a couple of days away from the Habs hue and cry and then battled back after falling behind in Game 4. A fluke Andrew Ference bomb from the high point closed the Bruins within a 3-2 score in the game at the Bell Centre, and Ference famously flashed the unintentional bird to the Canadiens-friendly crowd as he skated in to celebrate with his approaching teammates.

It was that goal combined with the accompanying show of defiance which Ference later said was an equipment malfunction with his glove that gave Lucic the inspiration that the Bruins wouldnt lose the series, or any other series moving forward as they tore through the Eastern Conference.

I know he probably doesn't want to get this brought up, said Lucic with the slight hint of a chuckle. "But looking back to Game 4 against Montreal, we were down 3-1, and Andrew Ference scored that goal to make it 3-2. It was kind of a lucky bounce that went our way.

He just took a hard slap shot at it that went high glove and his finger got caught in his glove during his celebration.

Lucic laughingly agreed that it was an unintentional bird, but said the goal and gesture gave Boston something to rally around when they needed it most.

It was kind of that moment, when he scored that goal, where I felt that it showed our resiliency and our passion, Lucic said. It showed that we weren't going to give up. We knew we had something special here.

The Bs power forward was obviously inspired by his Bruins teammate, and there were plenty of iconic moments that followed for Lucic, Ference and the rest of his Bruins teammates en route to Cup glory.

From the press release regarding Lucic's charity event:

"The second annual Milan Lucic Rock and Jock Softball Game will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. at LeLacheur Park in Lowell with the athletes (The Jock Team) taking on popular radio and television personalities (The Rock Team). Proceeds from the event will benefit NMTWs Charitable Partners through the Celebrities for Charity Foundation. General admissions tickets are only 10 apiece and are available at www.rockandjocksoftball.org. Tickets are also available for purchase at any NMTW location in Lowell, Haverhill, Danvers and Framingham.

"Additionally one fan will win a charity raffle that will allow the winner to play in the Rock and Jock Softball Game, enjoy photo ops with Lucic and the players and get four VIP tickets to the game. The online raffle is being hosted by Celebrities for Charity Foundations patented technology at www.netraffle.org. Tickets cost just 2 each with a minimum purchase of five tickets and ticket prices are discounted for purchases of ten or more tickets. The raffle is open now and closes on Monday, August 22, 2011 at 10 a.m."

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

Miller 'blessed for the opportunity' to remain with Bruins

6snc20524161464129602343_3450k_1280x720_692161603908.jpg

Miller 'blessed for the opportunity' to remain with Bruins

To the surprise of pretty much nobody, Kevan Miller was ecstatic with the four year, $10 million contract extension handed to him by the Boston Bruins on Tuesday afternoon. The 28-year-old is a hard-hitting, big and strong defenseman in the Bruins mold, and has proven he can be a bottom-pairing defenseman in the NHL over the last three seasons of steady improvement.

So Miller was happy to keep things going with the Bruins and spend his prime years playing for the only NHL organization he’s known since signing as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Vermont.

“I’d like to start off by saying thank you to the Jacobs family, Cam Neely, Don Sweeney, and the rest of the Bruins organization. I’m truly blessed for this opportunity and I’m very thankful. I’d like to also say thank you to my family, my friends – they’ve all helped me get to this point,” said Miller, who would have been an unrestricted free agent on July 1. “Boston is a great city to play in, and we have the best fans in the NHL. I’m very thankful to them as well.

“I love playing here; it’s an honor to put that jersey on before every game. I feel my style of play fits in well here. I’m really looking forward to helping this [Bruins] team get back into the playoffs and reach our ultimate goal, and win a Stanley Cup.”

On the plus side of the ledger, Miller skated in a career-high 71 games last season and established career highs in goals (five), assists (13), points (18) and penalty minutes (53) while posting the second-best plus/minus rating on the team with a plus-15. Miller topped 19 minutes of ice time per game and played top pairing D-man minutes with Zdeno Chara for much of the season without another viable candidate able to step up into that spot.

On the minus side, Miller has had shoulder problems and concussion issues in his recent past while missing healthy portions of time in just about every season of his pro hockey career. He will be overpaid at $2.5 million per season if he turns into nothing more than a 5-6 defenseman for the Bruins, and it’s hard to imagine Miller ever truly flourishing as a top-4 defenseman given the body of work over the last two seasons.

Nevertheless, Miller hopes to keep improving at an NHL age (28) where you are pretty much a finished product on the ice.

“Everyone’s always trying to improve their game. As you can see, the NHL is changing every year, whether it gets faster here or there. But the game changes a lot and you have to be able to go along with that, and change your game in different ways,” said Miller. “I’m going to stay true to how I play, but I think there are areas where I can improve on, that I will improve on. I’m looking forward to it.”

Given the relatively rich contract that Miller will enjoy over the next four seasons, the Bruins are banking on the 6-foot-2, 210-pound defenseman improving as he goes in Boston as well. 

Bruins sign Kevan Miller to four-year, $10 million deal

felger_miller0523161464117692429_3450k_1280x720_691977283816.jpg

Bruins sign Kevan Miller to four-year, $10 million deal

BOSTON -- The Bruins locked up a piece to a blue line that was godawful last season in announcing they’d signed Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract.

They also retained one of their own young restricted free agents, center Seth Griffith, by reaching agreement on a one-year, two-way deal with an NHL value of $625,000 per season.

Miller, 28, played in a career-high 71 games last season -- his third with the Bruins -- and established career highs in goals (5), assists (13), points (18) and penalty minutes (53). He also posted the second-best plus/minus rating on the team (plus-15) and generally seemed to be playing his best hockey down the stretch.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Miller was also forced into playing 19:04 of ice time per night while oftentimes serving as a top-pair D-man alongside Zdeno Chara. That resulted in a high number of mistakes and turnovers at critical times against the opposition’s best offensive players.

The rugged, hardnosed Miller obviously isn’t going to be judged solely by the numbers. He's also evaluated by the big hits, blocked shots and air of intimidation in the defensive zone. That said, a four-year contract is a bit of a head-scratcher, given that Miller wasn’t expected to command that kind of deal as an unrestricted free agent on the open market.

That four-year deal, which carries a yearly cap hit of $2.5 million, would also seem to hint at the impending exodus of Adam McQuaid or Dennis Seidenberg, or both, given the number of limited stay-at-home defensemen on the roster now making decent NHL money.  

The bottom line: Miller’s contract will be a good one if he can settle into a steady, top-four role. But it will be another overpay if he winds up being the bottom-pairing D-man many see him as at the NHL level.

Griffith had 24 goals and 53 assists for 77 points in 57 games for the Providence Bruins last season, and also had an assist in four games for Boston. He'll get another chance this year to compete for one of the winger jobs at the NHL level with plenty of competition.