Lucic: 'I can bring a lot more'

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Lucic: 'I can bring a lot more'

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Milan Lucic is a positive guy, but its even been a challenge for him to keep it light, airy and happy while hes struggled through a 14-game goal scoring drought thats carried on noticeably into the postseason.There have been whispers hes hurt or that he simply cant keep up with the pace of play dictated by the swift-skating Montreal Canadiens. Neither of those things appears to be the main culprit with Lucic, who has managed only five shots on net in four games against the Habs along with a minus-2.In three of the four games hes squeezed off only one shot or less in the series, and its probably got a lot more to do with simply losing one-on-one battles with Habs defenseman P.K. Subban. Lucic went through a similar rough patch to start the playoffs last season, and went scoreless in the first five games against Buffalo while also getting saddled with a minus-2 in that span. The 22-year-old power forward picked it up in Game 6 against Buffalo and was one of Bostons best players against the Flyers, and knows there is still time to get the Looch train moving.Its tough to think negatively and feel bad for myself when weve won each of the last two games, said Lucic. In the playoffs the only thing that matters is wins and losses. Im not happy with the way that Im playing. I know that I can bring a lot more. But for me I need to stop thinking negatively and think about what Ive been doing wrong, and instead focus on what I can do right. Try to bring that element to the game.Ive never a problem dealing with the pressure of the playoffs, and Ive always played well in the playoffs. Theres still time to figure it out, and bring what I can bring.Lucic charges down the left wing with regularity and Subban guards his right side defensively, and that means Lucic and Subban have been locked up for some epic puck battles throughout the first four games of their seven game series. The flamboyant Montreal defenseman carries a good offensive reputation and can do some spectacular things with the puck offensively, but hes also been a strong, underrated presence on his skates that hasnt been physically dominated by a bigger man in Lucic.Combine that with the Bs left winger playing a quiet physical game, and that leaves Lucic looking to answer a lot of questions in the final three games of the Montreal series a setting where the Bruins badly need him."This is not the time to get frustrated and be negative and to get yourself down, said Lucic. Today is fresh start and it's almost like 0-0 in the series again for me.I just want to do whatever I can to start playing like RyderBergeronMarchand, added Lucic, referencing the Bs forwards that have carried the offensive mail in the series. All my focus is to elevate my game and play the way I know that I can."It would greatly benefit the Bs to get their 30-goal scorer back after hes pulled a disappearing act over the last month. The Bruins are a gaudy 22-2 when Lucic pots a goal for the Black and Gold this season, but youll never guess who the team was when Boston found itself on the losing end of when Looch pots a goal: Montreal.That continues an odd season for Lucic against the Canadiens, and one hes hoping to end tonight while catching up to David Krejci and Nathan Horton in the goal-scoring department while the other lines have flourished in the series.Mark Recchi skipped the Bruins morning skate at TD Garden as a 43-year-old future Hall of Famer certainly always has the right to do, and theres little doubt hell be ready at the drop of the puck for Game 5.Claude Julien was careful to avoid any talk of being comfortable heading back to TD Garden with the series evened at 2-2 despite the best efforts of the Montreal media to have him step into a verbal trap.I dont know if its comfortable, said Julien. I think its more of a situation where weve got ourselves back into a series. Getting comfortable can be a dangerous word to use, especially in the playoffs. We are more confident. Winning the last two games youve built some confidence, and you hope you can carry that confidence into the game tonight.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.