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.