Lucic reaches 20-goal mark, wants more

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Lucic reaches 20-goal mark, wants more

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Milan Lucic is happy. But in no way is he satisfied.

Not even after scoring his 20th goal on Wednesday night at the TD Garden, helping the Bruins to a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

His wrist shot from the top of the left circle beat Tomas Vokoun to the top-right corner and gave the B's a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second period.

It's the first time in his four-year career that Lucic has reached the 20-goal mark. It comes in just 47 games. The closest he came to that mark was two seasons ago, when he finished his sophomore campaign with 17 goals in 72 regular-season games.

Reaching the 20-goal mark was always something Lucic expected to accomplish. Others thought he'd eventually reach it as well. But bot many thought it would come this quickly into a season.

Including Lucic himself.

"That was a big question coming in, for myself and a lot of people," said Lucic. "I thought I was able to get to that 20-goal mark. It came a lot quicker than I thought, but most importantly, it was a big goal to help the team win here, and it's great that we're first in the division, heading into the All-Star break."

The Bruins are first in the division and third in the conference, thanks in part to Lucic's offensive outburst in the first half of the year.

To put into perspective just how much Lucic's offense has meant to the team through 50 games this season, just look at Nathan Horton's recent 20-game slide, in which he has only one goal.

Horton was acquired to put the puck in the net, more than than anyone else on the team. He has only 12 goals at the All-Star break, a total that should be considered an "underachievement."

Add Horton's midseason slump to Marc Savard's continuous concussion issues, and this is a Bruins team that could only be first place in the division if someone stepped up and had a career year.

Lucic seems to be that guy.

"I think Lucic is at a stage in his career now, where he's still a young player, but he's got enough experience," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "This is going to be his fourth year, but he's one of those guys that is building consistency in his game. And what should I expect from him? I should expect him to continue playing a physical game. We should expect him to continue to produce, because he's capable of doing that. I think what we've seen in the first half, is what he's capable of doing for us, as we move on.

"He's also one of those players that I think always comes up big in the big games, such as playoffs, and all that stuff. He's one of those guys that really rises to the occasion, so you hope that continues as well."

There wasn't an All-Star break last year because of the Olympics. But in the final three months of the regular season (from February on), Lucic scored only six goals. After 20 goals through the month of January this season, seeing Lucic with only six goals in the final three months this year would be awfully disappointing to Bruins fans, and the organization.

But in fairness to his struggles last season, Lucic admitted after the fact that his high-ankle sprain, which he suffered in late November, affected his production for the rest of the season.

His ankle seems to be healthy this season, and as a result, he's already scored 11 more goals this season than he scored all of last year, in three less games.

Knowing that now he needs to be one of the go-to offensive threats on the Bruins this season, Lucic isn't satisfied with 20.

"It was real tough, going through what I went through, being out for so long, and especially, even when I came back, that high-ankle sprain was still bugging me," said Lucic about last season's struggles. "To work as hard as I did this summer, and to get rewarded for it thus far throughout the season is great. I can't stop here. I've got to keep pushing for more."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

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Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious. 

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

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Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece.