Lucic looking to pick up the pace

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Lucic looking to pick up the pace

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

Milan Lucic is Bostons offensive game-breaker with his team-leading 30 goals, and theres little argument there.

Lucic has come to the forefront with an improved shot and release, and theres nothing to dislike about his skating game when hes moving with purpose and power to clean opponents out in the corner or camping in front of the net with his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame.

But Lucic will also go through cycles in his game when his work ethic wanes ever so slightly and his nose for the net is lost, and thats been the case over the last two games as the hulking left wing hasnt registered a single shot.

For Lucic to not get one shot in 35:03 of ice time is something that hasnt happened much this season. In fact, its only happened twice, and Lucic hasnt gone three straight games without a shot.

We want to make sure that we dont coast going into the playoffs. We want to make surer were staying sharp, and that were at our best when were heading into it, said Lucic. If you look at the games when weve been most successful, its been when weve been strong on the puck in the other teams zone, getting in front of the net and getting to the dirty areas.

Look at Nathan Hortons goal Sunday night. Both of us get to the front of the net, we get a good shot from the point and we pick up a rebound. Same with the power-play goal we scored against Montreal. Its just about getting to those areas where the rebounds are going to be. We have to use our bodies to muscle our way in . . . thats for sure.

Coach Claude Julien has seen these kinds of short stretches from Lucic before and the biggest key is to nip any bad habits early on before it becomes a 10-game scoreless stretch, like the power forward went through earlier this season.

Julien wants to see more of the simple power-and-possession game out of Lucic and fellow big body Horton when chasing after pucks, and its clear they havent been at their powerful best over the last two games.

Their line hasnt been quite as productive because I think theyre trying to force some plays at the blue line and trying to make clean plays rather than realizing sometimes youve got to get pucks in deep, said Julien. With Horton and Lucic on both sides, youve got to realize youre going to come up with it most times and be able to control it, and I think they just have to put a little more grit in their minds.

Sometimes its not always going to be pretty and youve got to put a little work into it. Thats a small adjustment they can make easily. Theyve done it before, and if they can do it theyll be a little more productive and a little more into the style of play that has given them success.

Lucic isnt invisible on the ice even when hes not squeezing off shots, however, and was a big presence in front of the net on Hortons game-tying power play goal Sunday night in Philadelphia. Video replays showed two Flyers defenders hovering around Lucic while the rebound was being kicked out, and that left Horton uncovered while hanging out by the left post. He pushed in the rebound for his 23rd goal of the season, but Lucics imprints were all over the goal even if he didnt technically factor into the goal from a statistical standpoint.

Thats proof positive that the 23-year-old is still contributing even when he's not racking up points or goals. But a playoff hockey teams No. 1 line is all about influencing a game and proving some points and production on a consistent basis.

Lucic has been steady with his contributions just about all season, and itll be back to the dirty work for No. 17 Tuesday night against the reigning Stanley Cup champs from Chicago.

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

Report: Celtics likely to guarantee Amir Johnson’s $12M deal for next season

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Report: Celtics likely to guarantee Amir Johnson’s $12M deal for next season

The Celtics will likely guarantee the second year of Amir Johnson’s two-year, $24 million deal he signed last season, the Boston Globe reported.

Johnson, 29, a 6-9 forward, signed as a free agent last summer, averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 79 regular season games for the Celtics and 8.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in the six-game, first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks. 

Bruins, Krug agree to four-year, $21 million deal

Bruins, Krug agree to four-year, $21 million deal

With the salary room created by buying out the final two years of veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg contract, the Bruins signed restricted free agent Torey Krug to a four-year, $21 million contract ($5.25 million cap hit) through the 2019-20 season.

The negotiations between Krug and the Bruins had been fairly quiet with GM Don Sweeney consistently stating that something would get it done and it seemed the writing was on the wall when Sami Vatanen signed a four year, $19.9 million extension with the Anaheim Ducks. The two are comparable players in size, offensive production, NHL experience and both also served in top-four roles last season while projecting to stay at that level of performance over the next four years.

The Bruins couldn’t afford to let Krug, 25, hit the open market, where another team could potentially poach Boston’s only true puck-moving D-man with an offer sheet. After signing a one-year bridge deal, Krug played in a career-high 81 games, with four goals and 44 points. His 40 assists were ninth among D-men in the NHL last season and it’s clear that Krug plays a vital role as a puck mover and power-play specialist.

Krug also stepped up in minutes last season, finishing only behind Zdeno Chara with a career-high 21:36 average of ice time and essentially serving as the B’s de facto No. 2 defenseman. The diminutive (5-foot-9) D-man did pay the price for playing such heavy minutes by undergoing shoulder surgery following the season, but Krug was expected to make a full recovery and be ready to jump into the lineup at some point during the month of October.

The signing of Krug is a big piece for Sweeney and the Bruins, who must prepare for what awaits them Friday, once the free agent market opens, and later in the month when they begin efforts to re-sign Brad Marchand to an extension. 

 

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

Bruins buying out veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg

The Bruins placed veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on waivers on Thursday for the purposes of buying the veteran defenseman out of the final two years of his contract.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Seidenberg, who turns 35 July 18, still had two years remaining on a deal that would have paid him $4 million in each of the seasons. The move will save the Black and Gold roughly $4.6 million in cap space over the next two years.

Seidenberg confirmed the contract buyout to CSNNE.com and confirmed one other thing: "I going to miss it."

The extra space should theoretically allow the Bruins to spend big money on Friday when free agency opens, but the Bruins really haven’t been the lead suitors for any of the major available players to this point.

With the way buyouts work, however, the spread over four years means that the Bruins will still be including $1.16 million cap hits from 2018-2020, and are now down another experienced D-man who was a stalwart warrior for them over the years. Seidenberg clearly lost a step after blowing out his knee in the 2013-14 season and was a minus player for the first time in Boston last season with one goal and 12 points in 61 games.

The skating speed was noticeably slower and Seidenberg had trouble keeping up with the pace even as he continued to block shots and throw opponents around in the defensive zone. Seidenberg finishes his seven seasons in Boston with 23 goals and 117 points in 401 games as a rugged top-four defenseman. He will always be cherished in Boston for his marvelous stretch en route to the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Claude Julien pairing Seidenberg with Zdeno Chara midway through their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens changed the tide of that playoff matchup and was the combo used by the B’s for the playoffs when they again made it to the Cup Final in 2013 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The German-born defenseman was a respected and tough veteran leader in the B’s dressing room and will be missed for his toughness and accountability whether it was good times or bad in the room.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first to report that Seidenberg was being placed on waivers for the purpose of being bought out of his contract.