Lucic ready for a fight in Buffalo

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Lucic ready for a fight in Buffalo

BUFFALO Milan Lucic knows there may be a fight in his future tonight, and hes not going to back down from it. For the second straight day the Bs power forward met the media head-on at the First Niagara Center and said he understands if Buffalo feels the need to come after him with one of their players.

Whether its Patrick Kaleta, Paul Gaustad or Cody McCormick to take on Lucic, he knows theres likely a fight coming his way given the hockey code. Buffalo embarrassed themselves by not standing up to fight when their franchise goaltender was dumped to the ice by a rushing Lucic, and now the teams reputation is on the line if theres another muted response during the rematch in their own backyard.

Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff and several Sabres players surprisingly lauded Lucic as a clean and honest player, but the Sabres coach also said he didnt respect the takeout check on his goalie.

I respect him as a player. But not for that incident . . . I cant, said Ruff. As a player. I was around him at the Team Canada camp. He plays the game hard. But I cant respect that play.

In other words, Ruff wont be shedding any tears if Lucic is forced to defend his actions with his fists.

If it comes to that, Lucic can handle himself, but he's also been a significant piece to the Bruins offensive puzzle, totalling five goals and eight points during the teams nine-game winning streak.

One day after admitting he expected one of the Sabres players to come after him, Lucic sounded no less sure with only a handful of hours leading up to game time. NHL Sheriff Brendan Shanahan will be watching from his NHL offices and has spoken with the general managers for both teams, but there has been no message thats filtered down to the coaches or the players from high above.

I expect it to be a hard-fought game. We can make whatever we want out of whatever happened and make whatever we want out of tonight in anticipation of it, said Lucic. But I think both teams have a lot more at stake with what the game has on the line with the winner being the top of the Northeast Division. Thats our focus and my focus more than anything.

You have to be prepared going into every game no matter what the situation. I play a physical and its not going to change the way I play the game.

Lucic said in the aftermath that the lacking response would never happen with the Bruins. That's the kind of team the Bruins have been ever since they failed to respond to Matt Cookes elbow to Marc Savards head in 2010. So Lucic and the rest of the Bruins understand the psychology in the Sabres dressing room.

They probably also remember that they were so emotionally drained in the Revenge Game against Cooke that they had nothing in the tank once Shawn Thornton had taken care of the fighting business. Theres every chance that same scenario plays out in Buffalo tonight.

Its fun to be a part of rivalries like this. I would have handled things differently if it were my goaltender. I wasnt indirectly calling anybody a coward, said Lucic. We can relate to a couple of years ago when Cooke hit Savard. Cooke stepped up and fought Thornton so it was over and done with after that.

Its not fun when the media and people are pointing their fingers around about what happened, and they start pointing fingers at guys in the room. Theyre definitely going to be prepared for this game. Not only because of the incident, but because they lost to us 6-2. We know theyre going to be fired up and ready to go tonight.

If the Sabres decide to play it on the rough side, theres little doubt Lucic and the Bruins will be equally fired up.

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.

It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period. 

It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.

So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?

Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.

It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.

Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.

“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.

“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”

On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.

Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.

This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.   

So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?

If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.

“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”

Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.

The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?

Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season. 
 

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins were supposed to hit the ice for the eighth day in a row on Tuesday following their empty 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon, but those plans were scrubbed.

The reeling Black and Gold instead cancelled practice, with only Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Zane McIntyre taking the ice at Warrior Ice Arena and the rest of the B’s hitting the giant reset button after an embarrassing loss.

“I think it’s one of those [things] where you’ve got to regroup and recharge the batteries, and feel better,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Maybe a little bit of fatigue was part of it [Monday vs. the Isles] and you use a day like today to look forward, look at videos and be better the next day. It happens today and we have another game tomorrow [against Detroit].”

While it is true that the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets have played more games than anybody else in the NHL in this wacky season with a condensed schedule, the B’s leaders weren’t having it as an excuse with both the Maple Leafs and Senators holding an incredible six games in hand on Boston. Blown opportunities against bad opponents are exactly the recipe for missing the playoffs, as they have in each of the past two seasons, and the Bruins are tracking to do that again.

“All of the teams are in the same situation. It’s about managing and finding ways to be at your best every night and in every game. Yes, maybe [the condensed schedule] is part of it, but you can’t just put the blame on that. We’re professionals and we need to show up every game.”

The Bruins didn’t show up against the Islanders on Monday afternoon and basically pulled their second no-show vs. the Isles on home ice this season. There’s no excuse for that given the B’s current situation battling for the postseason. 

Maybe a day off the ice will improve that situation and maybe it’s simply rewarding a team that didn’t earn it on Monday afternoon, but the B’s have to hope it’s much more of the former than the latter.