Lucic looking to pick up the pace

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Lucic looking to pick up the pace

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

Milan Lucic is Bostons offensive game-breaker with his team-leading 30 goals, and theres little argument there.

Lucic has come to the forefront with an improved shot and release, and theres nothing to dislike about his skating game when hes moving with purpose and power to clean opponents out in the corner or camping in front of the net with his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame.

But Lucic will also go through cycles in his game when his work ethic wanes ever so slightly and his nose for the net is lost, and thats been the case over the last two games as the hulking left wing hasnt registered a single shot.

For Lucic to not get one shot in 35:03 of ice time is something that hasnt happened much this season. In fact, its only happened twice, and Lucic hasnt gone three straight games without a shot.

We want to make sure that we dont coast going into the playoffs. We want to make surer were staying sharp, and that were at our best when were heading into it, said Lucic. If you look at the games when weve been most successful, its been when weve been strong on the puck in the other teams zone, getting in front of the net and getting to the dirty areas.

Look at Nathan Hortons goal Sunday night. Both of us get to the front of the net, we get a good shot from the point and we pick up a rebound. Same with the power-play goal we scored against Montreal. Its just about getting to those areas where the rebounds are going to be. We have to use our bodies to muscle our way in . . . thats for sure.

Coach Claude Julien has seen these kinds of short stretches from Lucic before and the biggest key is to nip any bad habits early on before it becomes a 10-game scoreless stretch, like the power forward went through earlier this season.

Julien wants to see more of the simple power-and-possession game out of Lucic and fellow big body Horton when chasing after pucks, and its clear they havent been at their powerful best over the last two games.

Their line hasnt been quite as productive because I think theyre trying to force some plays at the blue line and trying to make clean plays rather than realizing sometimes youve got to get pucks in deep, said Julien. With Horton and Lucic on both sides, youve got to realize youre going to come up with it most times and be able to control it, and I think they just have to put a little more grit in their minds.

Sometimes its not always going to be pretty and youve got to put a little work into it. Thats a small adjustment they can make easily. Theyve done it before, and if they can do it theyll be a little more productive and a little more into the style of play that has given them success.

Lucic isnt invisible on the ice even when hes not squeezing off shots, however, and was a big presence in front of the net on Hortons game-tying power play goal Sunday night in Philadelphia. Video replays showed two Flyers defenders hovering around Lucic while the rebound was being kicked out, and that left Horton uncovered while hanging out by the left post. He pushed in the rebound for his 23rd goal of the season, but Lucics imprints were all over the goal even if he didnt technically factor into the goal from a statistical standpoint.

Thats proof positive that the 23-year-old is still contributing even when he's not racking up points or goals. But a playoff hockey teams No. 1 line is all about influencing a game and proving some points and production on a consistent basis.

Lucic has been steady with his contributions just about all season, and itll be back to the dirty work for No. 17 Tuesday night against the reigning Stanley Cup champs from Chicago.

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

Monday, Jan. 23: Yandle endorses Coyotes

Monday, Jan. 23: Yandle endorses Coyotes

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while sorting through all the Bruins-related alternative facts out there.

*Matthew Tkachuk is having some disagreements with his parents about his mouth-guard usage with the Calgary Flames.

*Former Yotes D-man Keith Yandle says that the Arizona Coyotes “know what they’re doing” despite their decent to the cellar in the Western Conference.

*Insights on every goaltending situation in the NHL from the crack ESPN.com staff breaking down the fantasy rankings.

*The struggles continue for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they can’t seem to gain any traction in the Atlantic Division.

*Wayne Simmonds took the blame for a late penalty that led to Philly’s undoing as they battle for playoff position in the East.

*Sounds like Patrik Laine might be nearing a return to the lineup, and that’s a very good thing for the Winnipeg Jets.

*For something completely different: We have a title for the next Star Wars film. It’s going to be called “The Last Jedi.”

Rask missing from Bruins practice after Sunday exit

Rask missing from Bruins practice after Sunday exit

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- A day after exiting a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins with complications from migraines, Tuukka Rask was missing from a full Bruins team practice at Warrior Ice Arena prior to Tuesday night’s home date against the Detroit Red Wings.

Rask pulled himself out of the game midway through the second period with his team trailing after he’d stopped 20-of-22 shots, and was motioning toward his eyes as he exited for the Bruins dressing room. The Bruins goalie confirmed to reporters following the deflating loss that he indeed was suffering from ocular issues consistent with migraines, the same issue that knocked him out of a home loss to the Rangers a couple of years ago.

The Bruins brought in an emergency goalie to practice with the team on Monday along with backup netminder Zane McIntyre, who allowed three goals in the third period on the way to the Bruins imploding in Pittsburgh.

Both Colin Miller and Kevan Miller returned to practice on Monday morning, and the Bruins coaches shook up the forward lines after they were only able to cobble together one goal on 45 shots on Sunday afternoon. Torey Krug was also missing from practice along with Rask.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings based on Monday morning’s practice that started roughly an hour late due to the team doing some video work together:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Krejci-Backes

Schaller-Nash-Beleskey

Spooner-Moore-Czarnik/Hayes

Chara-Carlo

Liles-McQuaid

K. Miller-C. Miller

Morrow

McIntyre