Boston, MA – After missing a total of 32 games this year due to injuries, Bruins forward Milan Lucic has spent much of the season finding his game and rhythm. As his performance in last night’s 4-0 win in Atlanta proved, the 21-year-old is well on his way back to his old powerhouse self.
In his over 14 minutes on the ice, Lucic ended the night with one goal, one assist, and a +3 rating. That brought his point total to 15 in his 40 games this season.
Though his road back to the hardnosed, high-scoring Lucic of last season has been a difficult one, his improvement is undeniable. With each game he inches closer, and not a minute too soon as the Bruins battle for a sure spot in the playoffs come April.
“He’s been playing really well,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said of Lucic, both of whom grace the facade of the TD Garden under the words, "Big and Bad are Back."
“He’s obviously been more patient with the puck, making some plays, using his size and strength. For sure he’s playing much better and it couldn’t be better timing for us this time, when you have guys stepping up and playing the way they can.”
Last season Lucic averaged almost .6 points per game, compared to this season, where he currently stands at .375 points per game. In addition, Lucic averaged almost two penalty minutes per game last season, a stat that has dropped by roughly half this season. But the numbers game, though telling, can often cloud what is obvious on the ice. Milan Lucic has heart and that sort of energetic, tough attitude has spread throughout the B’s dressing room.
“He’s being stronger on the puck, protecting it, getting it out,” said head coach Claude Julien. “I think his game’s coming around, so he’s just got to keep going because that line…did a pretty good job for us.”
Last night, with the help of David Krejci, Lucic scored on Thrashers netminder Johan Hedberg with a sharp wrist shot in the second period, giving the Bruins a solid 2-0 lead.
“When I got the puck, before I touched it, I saw [Lucic] going in the slot and I just tried to find him,” Krejci said. “He got it on his stick, but he made a great shot. So you got to give credit to him.”
As Lucic and Krejci shared the top spot in the points column last night, they also shared the same sentiment going into the final 10 regular season games.
“I think we have a pretty good team and we just don’t show it that often,” Krejci said. “Lately we’ve been showing it pretty well on the road, but we’ve got to do it at home too and find consistency before we get in the playoffs, but we got to get there first.”
Lucic echoed Krejci’s opinion, both eager to better the team's conference standing.
“We just got to remember what we did and bring the same sort of mentality,” Lucic said. “It’s a dogfight from even the fifth spot to the eighth spot.”
With their eyes on the prize and with Lucic coming back to his crash, bang, and booming ways, there’s no doubt the Bruins homestretch will be an exciting one. With points at a premium, Lucic and his teammates look ahead; ready to fight tooth and nail for every last one.
Lucic said, “If we can put a good winning streak here together, we can do ourselves a favor and move ourselves up the standings.”