With a new role, Lucic battling hard

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With a new role, Lucic battling hard

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA Milan Lucic sounds almost wistful when talking about the sudden emergence of Tyler Seguin in the Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bs power forward remembers being a 19-year-old in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, and the kind of ignorance is bliss attitude of the young that came along with feeling no expectations or pressure weighing him down.

Lucic had a pair of goals in that seven game series, but was a younger player adding his thumping physical style while other players shouldered the offensive load as underdogs against the Habs. Thats a lot different than being your teams leading goal scorer during the regular season, and feeling all kinds of pressure while putting up six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in 14 games along with a plus-8 rating.

For me this years playoff feels a lot different than the last couple of years playoffs," Lucic said. "I remember when I was his age playing in the playoffs and there was no pressure. Youd just go out there and play. Its different going into a season rather than going into the playoffs, especially for him where no expectations with all of this other stuff going. He was supposed to score and all of this crazy stuff. Here nobody really talked about him and he was able to walk right in and play.

Thats what hes done; hes going out there and playing and thats why he was able to do what he could do."

Thats the situation Lucic is in now where hes been fielding questions like, Whats wrong? and Are you hurt? from media around the playoffs since the first couple of postseason games when Lucic was losing physical battles to P.K. Subban. The big winger was much better against the Flyers where he could stretch out his 6-foot-2, 235-pound body and punish Philadelphia players without worrying about too much faking, flopping or diving.

Still, Lucic leads the Eastern Conference and trails only Vancouvers Maxim Lapierre with 43 penalty minutes this season aided by a pair of game misconducts in 14 games with the Bruins. Some of that has been bad luck or bad decisions, but there have also been some encouraging performances within the postseason body of work.

Lucic was very good in Game 3 while setting up David Krejcis first period goal, and then going the extra mile to save a puck in the offensive zone that led to Andrew Ferences insurance goal. Lucic said it was a pure hustle play that he had a good feeling would lead to something positive, and it was indicative of the effort put in up and down the Bruins lineup.

He was good," Claude Julien said. "His fore-check, he chipped pucks in, he went after the puck aggressively and when you see a guy like Milan Lucic coming at you it makes you a little nervous. It can put you on your heels. So he created a lot of turnovers last night. But the other part you mentioned is it was important for him to be strong on the puck and not to lose it.

I thought he did that in Game 2 a lot and he got stripped from the puck. Earlier in the game he lost a couple of battles along the boards and I just kind of reminded him that the biggest asset of his game is about winning battles. He did a great job of refocusing and bringing that part of his game back to that game that night. So I thought he was a really good player battling a minor injury, but hes battling through it.

It may not be the same as it ever was for Lucic while he battles through the ins and outs of a scoring slump during the playoffs, but hes fighting through it and contributing in all manner of ways for the Bruins.

Big Bad Lucic still has a lot more to give before its all said and done, and hes proven this spring that he wont ever stop battling no matter the circumstances.

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

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system. 

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.