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.

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.

Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

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Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN – Newest Bruins forward David Backes has heard the trepidation from Bruins fans about the five-year term of his contract, and he’s probably also caught wind of St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong stating publicly that contract length was an area he was uncomfortable getting to on a theoretical extension with his outbound.

The prevailing wisdom is that the decade of rugged, physical play from the 32-year-old in St. Louis will cause him to start slowing down sooner rather than later, and the last couple of seasons won’t be as high quality as the first couple in Boston.

So what does the actual player think about any questions surrounding his five year, $30 million contract?

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes confidently said that concerns about his age, or him slowing down demonstrably in the last few years of his new contract, are “a bunch of malarkey” to borrow a favorite phrase from Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m 32, not 52. Time will tell, but I feel really good and I take care of my body. I lay it all on the line, but when I’m not at the rink I’m resting and recovering for the next time I have to pour it all into a game,” said Backes, who logged 727 hard-hitting games all with the St. Louis Blues organization over the last 10 seasons. “Time will be the judge, but I feel like [after] five years I’ll even have a couple more [seasons] after that.

“I don’t think this is going to be end. That’s my plan. I’m still going to get better over the next five years, and hopefully have a couple of opportunities to hoist that big trophy I’ve been chasing around for the last 10 years.”

One area of concern from last season: the 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games for the Blues were Backes’ lowest totals over a full season since his first few years in the league. It might be the first signs of decline in a player that’s logged some heavy miles, or it could be a simple down season for a player that’s always focused on setting the physical tone, and defense, just as much as his offensive output at the other end of the ice.

As Backes himself said, “time will be judge” of just how well the five year contract turns out for a natural leader that will undoubtedly give the Bruins a boost as a hard-nosed, top-6 forward as he moves into the Boston phase of his NHL career.

Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

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Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a pretty amazing, on-point succession of speeches by Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night. It was quite a contrast to the absolute circus sideshow that went on in Cleveland last week.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynksi chronicles the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes, and the late entry of the Chicago Blackhawks as a suitor. Wysh still feels, as I do, that the Bruins end up getting this talented player at the end of the day.

*The details of the charges levied against Evander Kane paint an ugly picture of a hockey player doing a lot of the wrong things.

*PHT writer Mike Halford says that the Carolina Hurricanes might be ready to snap their playoff drought after extending head coach Bill Peters.

*John Tavares tells the Toronto media not to count on him ever pulling over a Maple Leafs jersey amid post-Stamkos speculation.

*Well, would you look at this? The Nashville Predators are providing salary cap and contract info on their own team website. What a concept!

*The Edmonton Oilers say they will have a new captain in place by opening night, and it will be interesting to see if they go the Connor McDavid route.

*Brian Elliott is thrilled at the opportunity to be “the man” between the pipes for the Calgary Flames this season after splitting time in St. Louis.

*For something completely different: a great feature on Howard Stern, and his transformation from shock jock to master interviewer.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs